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What if Alcohol or Drug Use Was a Factor in my Truck Accident?

What if Alcohol or Drug Use Was a Factor in my Truck Accident?

Part 1 in an 8-Part Summary of Trucking Regulations…  

FMCSA Regs. Parts 40 and 382 re drug and alcohol use

Unfortunately, the use of alcohol and/or drugs by a truck driver is a common cause of truck accidents.  If you’ve been injured in such an accident where alcohol or drugs played a part, here is some information you should know.

The federal government is well aware of this common cause of trucking accidents, and has issued a variety of federal regulations in an attempt to discourage and limit the use of alcohol and drugs, while driving, for commercial truck drivers. These include both prohibitive rules as well as testing.

Although for those who are over 21 it is legal to consume alcohol federal trucking regulations still prohibit its use, while operating a commercial motor vehicle. A truck driver cannot operate his or her truck in the following situations:

  • While using alcohol;
  • While having a breath alcohol concentration of 0.04 percent or greater as indicated by an alcohol breath test; or
  • Within four hours after using alcohol.

The legal limit of 0.04 percent for driving with alcohol as a commercial truck driver is much lower than the legal limit for those driving regular vehicles, for example.

Additionally, in order to enforce these prohibitions federal regulations establish a stringent testing gauntlet for truck drivers. Under Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Regulation 382 the following alcohol tests are required:

  • After any accident
  • Reasonable suspicion – conducted at the request of a supervisor that has reason to believe that alcohol abuse is a present.
  • Random – The number of random tests in a year must equal 10% of the number of driver positions the motor carrier employs. Also the tests must be done in immediate proximity to truck operating duties.
  • Return-to-duty and follow-up – A return-to-duty test is conducted when an individual who has violated the prohibited alcohol conduct standards returns to work. Follow-up tests are unannounced. At least 6 tests must be conducted in the first 12 months after a driver returns to duty. Follow-up testing may be extended for up to 60 months following return to duty.

Drug testing follows a similar system of prohibition and testing. The federal regulations prohibit the use of any controlled substances while operating a commercial motor vehicle. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Regulation 382 outlines testing procedures that use urine testing to screen for the following specific illegal drugs:

  • Marijuana (THC metabolite)
  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamines
  • Opiates (including heroin)
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)

In regard to drug tests, employers are required to conduct a total number of tests that equal 50% of the total number of truck operators that they employ in a one year period.
Unlike alcohol random tests, the random drug tests do not have to happen immediately proximate to the drivers’ operation of their vehicles.

These regulatory safeguards create a significant paper trail that may be used during litigation in accidents involving substance abuse. Although both driver alcohol and drug test histories are confidential, they may be discoverable in litigation if the information is relevant to the facts of the case. Such discovery can provide specific insights into possible negligence on the part of the trucking carrier’s responsibility to monitor and test for controlled substances and the driver’s own personal negligence.

Read Part 2 of Trucking Regulations… 

What Standards Must a Truck Driver Pass to Receive a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License)?

Starr Austen and Miller, specialized truck accident lawyers in Indiana, focus on representing individuals and their family members in serious personal injury and wrongful death cases, such as those often involved in Indiana truck accidents. If you or a loved one have been in a truck accident you can contact us for a free consultation to discuss your case.