NTSB Issues Recommendations to FMCSA Regarding Synthetic Drug Use by Drivers

NTSB: Trucker’s Use of Synthetic Marijuana Caused Fatal Crash
As a result of its investigation of a truck crash that killed four college athletes last year, the National Transportation Safety Board issued recommendations on Nov. 17 aimed at helping motor carriers address “impairing substances” that are not tested for under federal regulations.
NTSB said it has determined that the truck driver charged with killing four members of the North Central Texas College softball team by crashing his tractor-trailer into the bus they were riding in caused the accident “due to incapacitation stemming from his likely use of a synthetic cannabinoid," commonly known as synthetic marijuana.
The board also stated that the driver at fault had a documented history of drug use.
According to NTSB, synthetic cannabinoids are chemical compounds “marketed as allegedly legal alternatives to marijuana; however, their effects can be considerably worse and they have been known to cause psychosis, seizures, and nonresponsiveness.”
The crash occurred on Sept. 26, 2014, along Interstate 35 North near Davis, Okla. The team was returning to Gainesville, Texas, from a scrimmage in Bethany, Okla., when the truck, after negotiating a slight rightward curve, departed the left lane, crossed the 100-foot-wide median and traveled more than 1,100 feet before colliding with the team’s medium-size bus in the southbound lane.
Four bus passengers died and five were seriously injured. Six additional bus passengers and both drivers sustained minor injuries.
As a result of the investigation, the NTSB issued two new recommendations to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration:

  • Determine the prevalence of commercial motor vehicle driver use of impairing substances, particularly synthetic cannabinoids, and develop a plan to reduce the use of such substances.
  • Work with motor carrier industry stakeholders to develop a plan to aid motor carriers in addressing commercial motor vehicle driver use of impairing substances, particularly those not covered under current drug-testing regulations – such as promoting best practices by carriers, expanding impairment detection training and authority, and developing performance-based methods of evaluation.

In addition, NTSB issued this recommendation to the American Trucking Associations, American Bus Association, United Motorcoach Association, Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, and Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance:

  • Inform your members about the dangers of driver use of synthetic drugs and encourage them to take steps to prevent drivers from using these substances

Click here for further information about the NTSB investigation.