Trucking Alcohol and Controlled Substance Use and Testing

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) enacts and enforces Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR), which govern truck drivers and trucking companies operating in interstate commerce. The dangers created by the driving of trucks or other large commercial motor vehicles (CMV) while under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances—and the prevalence of such behavior—are so significant that the FMCSA devotes an entire part of the FMCSR to strict alcohol and controlled substance use and testing rules. 49 CFR § 382.101. With some exceptions noted in the regulations, these rules apply to every CMV driver and employer of a CMV driver who operates a CMV in commerce in any State. 49 CFR § 382.103. Both drivers and employers may be subject to civil and/or criminal penalties for violations of the rules. 49 CFR § 382.507. Experienced truck-accident lawyers are well-versed in the intricacies of these regulations and how they can be used to establish driver and trucking-company liability in actions to recover damages for accident victims’ injuries and deaths.

General Alcohol and Controlled Substance Regulations

CMV drivers are prohibited from driving CMVs or performing other safety-sensitive functions while under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances. Safety-sensitive functions, for purposes of these rules, include anything done by a CMV driver from the time the driver begins to work, or is required to be in readiness to work, until the time the driver is relieved from work and all responsibility for performing work. This covers, among other things, time during which a driver is waiting to be dispatched, inspecting equipment, repairing equipment or obtaining assistance for the repair of equipment, loading or unloading a vehicle, or driving a CMV. 49 CFR § 382.107.

Regulations Related to Alcohol Use

Drivers are prohibited from using alcohol while performing safety-sensitive functions, and employers with actual knowledge that drivers are doing so must stop the drivers from performing those functions while alcohol is being used. 49 CFR § 382.205. Drivers are also prohibited from performing safety-sensitive functions within 4 hours of using alcohol, and employers who have actual knowledge of such pre-duty alcohol use are prohibited from permitting the drivers to perform or continue to perform such functions. 49 CFR § 382.207. Regardless of how much time has passed between a CMV driver’s use of alcohol and the driver’s reporting for duty, a driver is prohibited from reporting for duty or remaining on duty requiring the performance of safety-sensitive functions while the driver’s alcohol concentration is 0.04 or greater. Employers are prohibited from allowing drivers to perform safety-sensitive functions with such alcohol concentrations. 49 CFR § 382.201.

Employers are not required to conduct pre-employment alcohol testing on prospective CMV drivers. If an employer chooses to conduct such testing, however, the testing must be performed in compliance with requirements specified in 49 CFR § 382.301. If a driver tested for alcohol is found to have an alcohol concentration greater than 0.02 but less than 0.04, the driver may not perform or continue to perform any safety-sensitive function until at least 24 hours have passed since the administration of the test. 49 CFR § 382.505.

Regulations Related to Controlled Substance Use

The FMCSR prohibit CMV drivers from reporting for duty or remaining on duty requiring performance of safety-sensitive functions during any time drivers are using certain drugs or controlled substances identified in the regulations. A driver may be granted an exception to this requirement when the driver’s use of a substance is pursuant to the instructions of a licensed medical practitioner familiar with the driver’s medical history and when the medical practitioner has advised the driver that the substance will not have an adverse effect on the driver’s ability to safely operate a CMV. 49 CFR § 382.213. A CMV driver’s employer who has actual knowledge that the driver has used a controlled substance is prohibited from allowing the driver to engage in any safety-sensitive function. 49 CFR § 382.213.

Before a CMV driver may perform a safety-sensitive function, the driver must undergo pre-employment testing for controlled substances, unless the driver has participated in a controlled substances testing program meeting FMCSR requirements within the previous 30 days and fulfills other requirements related thereto. Employers are prohibited from allowing drivers to perform safety-sensitive functions before employers receive verified negative controlled-substance test results. 49 CFR § 382.301.

Record-keeping Requirements

All employers are required to maintain records of their alcohol misuse and controlled substance use programs. Among others, records of driver alcohol tests indicating alcohol concentration of 0.02 or greater, verified controlled substance test results, refusals to take required alcohol and/or controlled substances tests, and driver evaluations and referrals must be maintained for at least 5 years. Certain other records must be maintained for 1 and 2 year periods, and records related to the education and training of breath-alcohol and screening-test technicians, supervisors, and drivers must be maintained while the individual performs the functions that require the training and for 2 years after ceasing those functions. 49 CFR § 382.401. Employers must also request alcohol and controlled substance information on drivers from drivers’ previous employers. 49 CFR § 382.413.

Our truck accident attorneys have a thorough knowledge of the regulations related to alcohol and controlled substance use and the experience and skill to use this knowledge to achieve the justice our clients deserve for injuries caused by truck-driver alcohol and substance misuse. We can answer any questions you have about these regulations and explain how their violation by truck drivers or trucking companies can help us secure the financial compensation to which you are entitled.