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WKYT Investigates: Truckers driving high on drugs, future database aimed to help

(WKYT)
Published: Jun. 2, 2016 at 5:23 PM EDT
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Things were different when Dennis Sell became a trucker in the late 1970s. He called it the 'wild west' back then. He said it was everybody for themselves. Safety was not a priority. "It's come a long way. It's a lot better than it used to be," Sell explained as he drove along a Louisville highway.

As the years passed, Sell said his industry has changed. More regulations have made his job safer. But a statewide drug epidemic has effected his industry. "It shines a bad light on the whole industry," Sell explained.

In May, WKYT interviewed 37-year-old William Eichhorn in the Laurel County Detention Center. He had been arrested by state police for being under the influence of methamphetamine. When asked if he was on methamphetamines, he said, "Not for the last two days, that's when I done it last. And I quit then." Eichhorn had his two children in the truck when he was arrested, police said.

Sell responded to the arrest, "It enrages me because I know this guy is out here driving 80,000 pounds. Not only is he taking his life in his own hands, but my life and the general public."

The Kentucky Trucking Association said there are more than 14,000 trucking companies in Kentucky. They range from two-truck fleets to hundreds, like the company Sell works for, HTSI Trucking. President of HTSI William Hill said, "Certain drugs are becoming more acceptable in society. It has put a greater burden on transportation, especially trucking, to keep that from being a big hindrance in how we hire drivers."

A check with Kentucky State Police showed an increase in the amount of drug citations given to commercial vehicle drivers:

2013 - 24 citations

2014 - 28 citations

2015 - 32 citations

"It's not just a trucking issue, it's a societal issue," explained Hill. "We're facing that through any industry you want want to talk to today--having a hard time with employees and drugs tests." Hill said he only has about one driver a year fail a drug test. He said a new tool, hopefully soon available by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, will help all trucking companies have better communication. "Now we'll have the ability when someone fails or refuses a drug or alcohol test, we can put that back into the database," Hill said. "When it comes to enforcement, they can say, 'Listen there's no excuses anymore. You have a free database to look at. You should have never hired this driver,'" he explained.

"If we put someone behind the wheel of one of htese trucks and they have an accident and it was to come up that this person had a DUI or drug issue three, four, five years ago, we're undefendable," Hill said.