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FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Rules

FAQs on alcohol and drug testing for truckers, and how they can affect your case

There are many good truck drivers who care about safety and play by the rules. But there are also truckers who cause accidents because they’re under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Below are frequently asked questions about alcohol and drug testing rules for truckers, and how this may affect a truck accident case.

Who is subject to FMCSA drug and alcohol rules?

Below is a list of parties that must follow Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) drug and alcohol rules:

  • Anyone who owns or leases commercial trucks;
  • Anyone who assigns drivers to operate commercial motor vehicles;
  • Federal, state and local governments;
  • For-hire motor carriers;
  • Private motor carriers; and
  • Civic organizations and churches.

What kind of alcohol-related conduct is prohibited?

Performance of safety-sensitive functions is prohibited:

  • While using alcohol;
  • While having a breath alcohol concentration of 0.04 percent or more, as indicated by a breathalyzer test; and
  • Within four hours after drinking alcohol.

What alcohol tests are required for commercial truck drivers?

The following are required alcohol tests for truck drivers:

  • Post accident – conducted following accidents on truck drivers who could have contributed, and for all fatal accidents;
  • Reasonable suspicion – conducted when a supervisor or company official observes semi-truck driver behavior that indicates alcohol misuse;
  • Random – conducted on a random, unannounced basis before, during or after performance of safety-sensitive functions; and
  • Return-to-duty and follow-up – conducted when a tractor-trailer driver who has violated the alcohol conduct standards returns to performance of safety sensitive duties.

What drugs are tested for in urine samples?

The following drugs can be detected in urine samples

  • Marijuana,
  • Cocaine,
  • Amphetamines,
  • Opiates (including heroin), and
  • Phencyclidine.

Who conducts testing on truck drivers?

Motor carrier employers. They are responsible for being trained to administer the testing programs as well as administering and implementing them. Law enforcement officers are not to conduct the tests as part of roadside inspections. But under certain circumstances, post-truck accident tests by law enforcement are acceptable.

But often, employers turn a blind eye to truck drivers on drugs, as they’re looking to cut corners on safety in exchange for a bigger bottom line. They will hire truckers who have caused previous accidents due to alcohol and drugs for a cheaper salary. An experienced trucking attorney can prove this kind of negligence on your behalf.

What are the consequences of truck drivers abusing alcohol?

Truck drivers who engage in prohibited alcohol conduct must be immediately removed from their duties and can’t return until they have been evaluated by a substance abuse professional, and have complied with treatment recommendations to help them with an alcohol abuse problem.

That’s if they are caught. It’s common for truck drivers who have caused crashes while under the influence to disappear until they are sobered up. Then, when they are tested, the drugs and alcohol are out of their system.

How will truck drivers learn about the new rules?

Employers must provide detailed information about alcohol misuse, the employers’ policy, testing requirements as well as how and where truck drivers can get help for alcoholism. As our attorneys always say, holding truck drivers accountable for using drugs and alcohol is the employers’ responsibility.

How does the FMCSA know if drug/alcohol regulations are being followed by truck drivers?

Truck driver employers are required to keep detailed records of their alcohol misuse prevention programs. The FMCSA conducts inspections and audits of these programs. In addition, selected employers must prepare annual summary reports for the FMCSA. These reports are supposed to help monitor compliance and enforcement of the rules as well as provide data on the extent of alcohol misuse and the need for any future program and regulatory changes.

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