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Drug & Alcohol Use and Testing

Most people are aware of the rules regarding drinking and driving. Generally speaking you can’t do it. However, a close examination of almost any criminal law allows drivers to operate their own vehicles even after they have had some amount of alcohol. Depending on the state, the amount of alcohol to driver is allowed to have before operating the vehicle varies.

Commercial drivers operating their semi trucks are not allowed similar leeway. In addition, semi-truck companies must be proactive in ensuring that their drivers are operating the trucks without being influenced by alcohol or medication.

49 CFR 40.23 thru 40.25 – What are an Employers Obligations Regarding Drug and Alcohol testing?

Any time a driver takes a test that reveals the use of drugs, employer has limited options. It is not sufficient for the employer to simply issue a warning or caution the employee. Instead, the employer may be obligated to immediately remove the employee from performing any safety-sensitive function.

Even before an employer allows a driver to operate a semi truck it is necessary to request from prior companies: 1) all alcohol tests with a result of .04 or higher; 2) all verified positive drug tests; 3) any record of the employee’s refusal to be tested; 4) any other violations of the Department of Transportation drug and alcohol testing regulations; and 5) if the employee had any violation proved that there is a successful completion of a return-to-duty requirement and follow-up tests.

49 CFR 382.201 Thru 382.215 and 392.5- What is Prohibited Conduct?

Regardless of whatever the applicable state law may be regarding acceptable blood-alcohol levels, any semi-truck driver is not permitted to report to, or remain on, duty if their blood-alcohol concentration is .04 or higher. In addition, a semi-truck driver is not permitted to use alcohol while performing any safety sensitive functions, or within four hours before performing a safety sensitive functions. This means that even if a commercial driver has a sip of alcohol with his or her dinner, he or she will not be permitted to operate a semi truck until at least four hours have passed regardless of what the blood-alcohol concentration may be. Even though an alcohol level of .04 or lower is acceptable for a semi-truck driver to be on duty, the same is not true when it comes to actually operating a motor vehicle. The regulations make it clear that any measurable alcohol concentration or any detected presence of alcohol is not acceptable while operating or controlling a semi-truck.

Semi-truck drivers are not even permitted to possess wine or distilled spirits. Any driver who was found to be in violation of these rules must automatically undergo a 24 hour out-of-service., Report the incident to his or her employer, any relevant state officials, as well as the State which issued his or her driver’s license.

In addition to alcohol, similar rules apply for other drugs or substances. Specifically, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration prohibits the use of any schedule 1 drug or medication. Other drugs or medications may be permitted only when used pursuant to the instructions of a licensed medical provider who is familiar with the driver’s medical history and has advised the driver that his or her driving ability will not be affected.