H-ARROYO GRANDE

Feb 3, 2012 12:06 AM by Nancy Chen

Company: Big rig driver tested negative for drugs less than two weeks before accident

The driver of a big rig who died in the crash near Buellton last month tested negative for drugs just a week-and-a-half before the accident, according to his manager.

Toxicology tests show Charles Allison Junior was under the influence of methamphetamine and amphetamine at the time of the crash, according to a CHP report released Wednesday. Allison died after his truck hit the back of a BMW carrying a mother and her two young daughters who survived.

Allison's former company, Arroyo Grande-based R&R Auto Wrecking, told KSBY News that Allison had worked on and off for them for about three years and had never tested positive during random drug tests.

His manager said that Allison went back to work about a month before the accident, passing a physical and drug test .

CHP Officer JW Townsen says truck drivers often use stimulants to stay awake on long routes when time is money; Allison was on a routine drive from Ventura County.

"If they get behind schedule, sometimes they make that up," he said. "If they break down, they may try to make up that time. And that could be dangerous to other motorists around."

And that's when Townsen says things can get dangerous.

"You will see a lot of over-the-road drivers using stimulants to keep them awake to drive longer, either within their hour limits or over," he said.

The stimulants are often harmless, or least legal: coffee, energy drinks and caffeine pills. But sometimes, drivers reach for more in order to stay awake.

"They'll use illegal forms such as meth or other amphetamines or methamphetamines," he said. "Speed to keep you awake for longer periods of time, for days at a time."

It all leads to a dangerous situation when a driver takes the wheel of a truck weighing tens of thousands of pounds.

"You're not in the right mind," Townsen said. "Our physical aspects, your reactions are slower, your mind is not thinking correctly."

And that's why there are stricter restrictions on what big rig drivers can and can't do; there is absolutely no tolerance for alcohol, and if drivers blow a .04 BAC level, they can get arrested, compared to .08 for the driver of a passenger vehicle.
"Most of your Class A drivers, they take pride in owning or having that class a driver's license because they do consider themselves to be experts in their field," he said.

Allison left behind a ten-month-old son and a fiancee.

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