Drug and Alcohol Testing in the Transportation Industry
In this episode, we sit down with Mike Thomas of Pennington, P.A. in Tallahassee, FL to discuss drug and alcohol testing within the transportation industry.
John Davis: You know, one of the other things I wanted to talk about, since most of what we’ve talked about today is evidence, is drug and alcohol testing. The Department of Transportation and FMCSA have certain regulations that says if there’s a fatality or an injury, that we should do a drug and alcohol test of the commercial driver as part of a regulation. I’m sort of looking for a best practice. What about those cases that you don’t really know if there’s an injury? What I’m concerned about is they say, “Oh, I’m okay,” at the time of the accident. And then a couple of days later, their back starts hurting, and then they get a lawyer. And my concern is, on those type of cases, they don’t do the drug and alcohol test, and can there be some type of, again, the discovery versus the evidence issue later on that, well, the driver could have been impaired but, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, we don’t know because they didn’t test him after this accident. I’m sort of looking for … You’re defending for the transportation insurance company. What’s the best practice in that situation?
Mike Thomas: Well, in my opinion, and I know some folks are doing this, any time there’s an accident, regardless of the extent of the property damage or whether or not there is an injury, folks are requiring their drivers, and I think it’s a good idea, to submit to a drug and alcohol test. That’s in the abundance of caution, and that’s what we talked about before, and that is that the facts are what they are. And we need to know about that early if it’s an issue.
John Davis: Okay, that’s a good point. Because if it is a bad fact, they fail the drug or alcohol test, then that’s something that we definitely need to know.
Mike Thomas: And know it early so if it warrants, resolve the case early and cheaply. You’d much rather know that on the front end than a year and a half into litigation, the insurance company spent a hundred grand and we realize 3/4 of the way through the litigation that the driver was impaired. Well, if we had known that a year and a half prior, we would have spent … Look, I like getting paid, and I think that’s a good thing, but-
John Davis: Well, that’s a good point because a defense costs, that’s a year and a half we went down that road, and we’re looking for ways to mitigate our expenses on these things. There’s a perfect example.
Mike Thomas: The drug and alcohol testing is quick and it’s cheap. At least in Tallahassee, there are several, used to be called doc-in-a-boxes, the Patients First, those type things. They’ve got contracts with different agencies and different insurance companies, and anytime that there’s an accident, whether there’s property damage or personal injury or not, those employees are required to submit to a drug and alcohol test. It takes no time. It’s a blood test, it’s a urine test, it takes no time, and there’s a lot of places in Tallahassee, like any other big city, these Patients First, doc-in-a-box type places that will do that for you. So, to answer your question, it’s best practice to require your drivers to have to submit to a drug and alcohol test with any type of accident. And it’s just good practice because, from a financial standpoint, a defensibility standpoint, fiscal standpoint, it is exceptionally helpful.
John Davis: Great. That’s what I definitely needed to know because some of my companies, they’ve been asking me, “What is that best practice?” And that’s good to know.
Mike Thomas: You do a cost benefit analysis, right?
John Davis: Sure.
Mike Thomas: It doesn’t take much for the driver to go down to one of these places and sit for 30 minutes, and then they spend 15 minutes in there. They get into an accident, they probably need to sit out for a period of time anyway, right?
John Davis: Right.
Mike Thomas: And they need to get checked out physically as well, but if they’re not injured, I think it’s just good practice. And look, the trucking companies need to know if they’ve got good drivers, right, that are toeing the line and acting right and not impaired while they’re driving.
John Davis: Right.
Mike Thomas: And it’s helpful for the insurance company folks, too, because it’s going to reduce claims and minimize or reduce the amount of a loss or a claim if you find that information out early on.
John Davis: Okay.
Mike Thomas: I think it’s a win all the way across the board for trucking companies and the insurance companies for best practices to have these employers just to eliminate that question right there. Yeah.
John Davis: Yeah.