Alcohol Testing for Drivers of Commercial Vehicles

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I am frequently asked who must comply with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s rules regarding testing for alcohol use.  Generally, the rules apply to safety-sensitive employees, who operate commercial motor vehicles requiring a CDL.

Examples of drivers and employers that are subject to these rules are (the following does not represent a complete listing):

  • Anyone who owns or leases commercial motor vehicles
  • Anyone who assigns drivers to operate commercial motor vehicles
  • Federal, State, and local governments
  • For-Hire Motor Carriers
  • Private Motor Carriers
  • Civic Organizations (Disabled Veteran Transport, Boy/Girl Scouts, etc.)
  • Churches

As it relates to alcohol use, clients often ask what amount of alcohol use is permissible under the rules.  Since alcohol is a legal substance, the rules define specific prohibited alcohol-related conduct.  Specifically, performance of safety-sensitive functions is prohibited:

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

In addition, refusing to submit to an alcohol test or using alcohol within eight hours after an accident or until tested (for drivers required to be tested) are prohibited.

Employers and Drivers are required to perform the following alcohol tests:

  • Post-accident – conducted after accidents on drivers whose performance could have contributed to the accident (as determined by a citation for a moving traffic violation) and for all fatal accidents even if the driver is not cited for a moving traffic violation.
  • Reasonable suspicion – conducted when a trained supervisor or company official observes behavior or appearance that is characteristic of alcohol misuse.
  • Random – conducted on a random unannounced basis just before, during, or just after performance of safety-sensitive functions.
  • Return-to-duty and follow-up – conducted when an individual who has violated the prohibited alcohol conduct standards returns to performing safety-sensitive duties. 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.

For more information on laws affecting the Trucking Industry,

please contact Tammy Meade Ensslin at:  859-963-9049

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