By: Allan M. Siegel
recent blog, we discussed federally mandated medical exams that are designed to ensure
truck and bus drivers with Commercial Driver’s Licenses (CDLs) are
fit and healthy enough to operate commercial vehicles. As we mentioned,
ensuring drivers do not have medical conditions that impact their ability
to safely control large vehicles, which can transport both cargo and people,
is critical to public safety. In the same vein, ensuring those drivers
do not have substance abuse problems or take medications that increase
their crash risks is equally important.
Both the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and Department
of Transportation (DOT) require CDL holders and employers to abide by
drug and alcohol testing regulations. These rules establish procedures
for testing, how often tests must be performed, and the substances tested
for. The following are all subject to these rules:
- Employers of CDL holders
- CDL drivers who operate on public roads
- Interstate and intrastate commercial vehicles
- Local, state, and federal governments (i.e. public transit)
- Civic organizations
What do tests identify?
Under drug and alcohol testing rules, drivers are tested for substances
that can negatively impact their ability to safely operate motor vehicles,
- Alcohol (.04 BAC or greater)
- Amphetamines and methamphetamine
- Phencyclidine (PCP)
CDL drivers are generally allowed to use prescription medications and over-the-counter
drugs provided that they meet requirements, including having a valid prescription,
using the prescribed dosage, and using them reasonably in relation to
their duties. There are exceptions, however, where the type of medication
may be prohibited. Ultimately, drivers have a duty to ensure that if and
when they do take medications, they do so lawfully, reasonably, and in
a way that does not endanger others.
When are tests performed?
Employers, including trucking companies and commercial bus operators, have
a duty to appropriately test drivers as conditions of hiring and continued
employment, as well as during other various times:
Hiring – Employers may only hire and allow a CDL driver to operate commercial
vehicles when they receive negative drug tests prior to employment.
After an accident – Commercial drivers must be tested for drugs and alcohol after
accidents involving death, injuries resulting in immediate medical treatment,
and vehicle damage that requires a vehicle to be towed.
Random testing – Employers must randomly test CDL drivers for drugs and alcohol
periodically throughout the year from a random testing selection pool.
Reasonable suspicion – Employers have a duty to immediately test CDL drivers who appear
to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Returning to duty – Drivers who have previously tested positive, refused a test, or
committed other testing violations must be tested, while observed, before
they resume driving duties. These drivers must also be tested regularly
during observed follow-ups, at a minimum of 6 times per year, for as many
as four years.
As accident lawyers who have handled numerous
bus accident, and commercial vehicle accident cases across the DC metro area, our legal
team understands that drug and alcohol issues should always be explored
following injury-causing accidents. When there is evidence to support
a driver was under the influence, that employers failed in some way to
adequately monitor and test drivers using controlled substances or medications,
or that they failed to respond appropriately when required by law, we
work diligently to highlight negligence and hold the appropriate parties
accountable for their failures.
Assessing drug and alcohol issues, as well as any other safety violations,
is a critical part of handling personal injury and wrongful death claims
arising from commercial vehicle wrecks. It is also a task that demands
meticulous investigation, an understanding of rules and regulations, and
the insight needed to establish when negligence takes place.
Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. is readily available to
help victims explore their rights, the cause of their accidents, and potential
liability after being harmed through no fault of their own. If you have
questions about a possible case,
contact us for a FREE consultation.