In 1991, Congress passed the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act in response to the problem of people in the transportation industry driving after using alcohol or illegal drugs.
The Act required Department of Transportation (DOT) agencies to implement drug and alcohol testing, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has enacted regulations requiring all operators with a commercial driver's license (CDL) to undergo this testing.
If you were injured in a large truck accident, here is what you need to know about these rules so you can determine if driver intoxication was the cause of your crash.
Who Is Required to Undergo Drug and Alcohol Testing?
All individuals who hold a CDL and drive commercial vehicles on public roads must undergo DOT drug and alcohol testing. Part-time fleet employees with CDLs are also obligated by this mandate.
The following are considered commercial motor vehicles covered under the law:
- Vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating greater than 26,000 pounds
- Vehicles transporting more than 16 passengers, including the driver
- Vehicles with placards indicating a cargo of hazardous material
Types of Required Drug and Alcohol Testing for Truck Drivers
Under FMCSA rules, truck drivers are required to take drug and alcohol testing at various times during their employment, including:
- Pre-employment. Any new truck driver must pass a drug test before the transportation company can permit him to drive. A trucker can only be tested for alcohol if all employees with CDLs are required to undergo the test. If he's removed from the random testing pool for some reason for more than 30 days, he must pass a pre-screening test before driving again.
- Post-accident. A truck driver must undergo alcohol and drug testing after any accident that caused fatalities; resulted in a citation in an injury crash; or caused a vehicle to be disabled. The alcohol test must be performed within eight hours, and the drug test within 32 hours of the crash.
- Random testing. Truckers must undergo random drug testing, and could be directed to take a test even when at home and off-duty. However, an employer is only allowed to require a random alcohol test while the trucker immediately before or after a shift, or during a shift. A trucker must report immediately for testing once receiving a request. Any delay can be regarded as a refusal and is equal to a positive test result.
- Reasonable suspicion. A DOT-trained supervisor can require a trucker to submit to alcohol or drug testing if the individual exhibits signs of use. The supervisor’s observations must be based on the trucker’s appearance, body odor, speech, or behaviors.
- Return-to-duty. Return-to-duty tests require direct observation and can replace a pre-employment test for truckers who have failed a drug or alcohol test or refused to take one.
- Follow-up. A substance abuse professional can require a truck driver to undergo follow-up drug or alcohol testing in addition to the random testing. This would include a minimum of six unannounced drug tests that are directly observed during the first 12 months.
The DOT regulations require drug testing for the following controlled substances:
- Amphetamines and methamphetamines
- Opiates, including OxyContin, opium, and codeine derivatives
- Phencyclidine, also known as PCP
A positive drug test, an alcohol concentration of .04 or greater, or test refusal requires the immediate removal of a driver from operating a commercial vehicle on public roads.
What Is the Testing Process?
A truck driver must comply with detailed rules regarding the alcohol and drug testing process. Some of these include the following:
- A trucker must report immediately after receiving a notice to report for drug or alcohol testing.
- Only a urine test is approved for drug testing.
- If there are any problems with the testing, a trucker could be required to undergo retesting under direct observation.
- A trucker is only allowed three hours to provide a urine sample.
- If the trucker leaves the testing facility before the process is over, it could be considered a refusal to take the test.
How Can Substance Abuse Tests Help Your Compensation Claim?
If you were injured in a wreck caused by a truck driver, you'll want to obtain a copy of his drug and alcohol test results. Even if you don't suspect anything at the time, the results may prove the operator was under the influence while driving, or that he had a problem with drug or alcohol use that prohibited him from driving under federal regulations. You may also have a separate claim against the fleet company for allowing the driver to continue to operation or for violating federal regulations regarding drug and alcohol testing.
If you or a loved one was injured in a commercial vehicle crash, our experienced truck accident attorneys will investigate all factors in your claim, including whether or not the driver abused drugs or alcohol. To learn more, contact us online or call our office directly at 816.471.5111 to schedule your free consultation.