accident drug alcohol testing

In an effort to reduce the occurrence of trucking accidents caused by driving under the influence (DUI), the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has enacted rules and regulations for drug and alcohol testing that apply specifically to commercial motor carriers. Under federal rules, a motor carrier is simply defined as any person or company that transports people or property for money. The term also includes “a motor carrier’s agents, officers and representatives as well as employees responsible for hiring, supervising, training, assigning, or dispatching of drivers and employees concerned with the installation, inspection, and maintenance of motor vehicle equipment and/or accessories. While it is against the law for any person to operate a motor vehicle while intoxicated, these federal rules create additional testing requirements for drivers of large trucks and buses. 

The FMCSA Rules 

Generally, the FMCSA drug and alcohol testing rules apply to drivers that operate a truck or bus under a commercial driver’s license (CDL), as well as the motor carrier companies that employ such drivers. This testing must be carried out by a federally certified laboratory. The rules mandate that motor carrier companies drug test drivers in four instances: 

  1. During pre-employment screening; 
  2. When there is reasonable suspicion that a driver is abusing drugs or alcohol; 
  3. At random; and 
  4. When an accident occurs. 

Ultimately, it is a trucking company’s or bus company’s responsibility to have these tests administered at the appropriate times. Employers of CDL drivers are required to designate someone in the company to be responsible for implementing and overseeing a testing program. This person must make sure that all required tests are administered, and must also make sure that all appropriate steps are taken after the test results come in. 

If a driver tests positive for drugs or alcohol while driving, a trucking company or employer must immediately remove the driver from all driving responsibilities. For non-CDL drivers, the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limit is .08. However, CDL drivers have a legal limit of .04. If a CDL driver has a BAC of greater than .02, the company must temporarily suspend them from driving. Drivers in violation of these rules regulations may not be given driving duties until they have completed a substance abuse program. 

Post-Accident Drug and Alcohol Testing Mandated by the FMSCA 

When motor carriers are involved in minor accidents in which no one is injured, drug and alcohol testing are not normally required under the FMCSA – although a motor carrier company may choose on its own to have one done. However, after serious accidents, drug and alcohol testing of the truck driver is required. If the trucking accident results in a fatality, testing is always required. Post-accident testing is also required when a truck driver is cited for a moving violation, or when a person is injured and requires medical care at the scene of the accident. Under the FMCSA rules, when testing is required, alcohol testing must be administered within 8 hours, and drug testing must be administered within 32 hours. 

Results of Post-Accident Tests and Personal Injury Lawsuits 

If a motor carrier, such as a tractor-trailer driver, causes an accident while under the influence of drugs and alcohol, any victims of harm are entitled to compensation. This compensation can be sought from the driver, the trucking company, or both, depending on the facts of a case. While intoxication of a truck driver doesn’t automatically prove that they were at-fault in causing an accident, it is certainly powerful evidence. Because companies have a duty to perform these tests under FMCSA rules when any of their drivers get into an accident, this evidence is usually available for victims to discover. 

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident with a motor carrier, Williams Elleby, can help you understand your legal rights and options, and work to get you the compensation you deserve. These types of cases can be incredibly complex, so it is imperative that victims contact experienced and qualified legal counsel as soon as possible after an accident occurs. If you would like more information or would like to discuss your case, contact Williams Elleby, today to schedule a free consultation by calling 833-LEGALGA today.

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