As professional truck drivers, we know how much safety matters. We understand that it is never acceptable to consume alcohol or illegal drugs while operating a commercial vehicle. What you do in your personal life is up to you, but once you’re behind the wheel of a big rig, you’ve got a responsibility to those around you.
It’s for this reason that you must undergo extensive drug and alcohol testing in order to be a truck driver. Sure, it’s another regulation, but sometimes they matter. There are different types of tests that hit at different time frames. And you must also know what it means to be impaired. Let’s dig a little deeper.
What is Misuse?
As it states in Part 382 of the FMCSRs, the purpose of the regulation is to prevent accidents and injuries that may result from a truck driver’s misuse of alcohol and/or abuse of drugs.
Let’s start with alcohol misuse. Alcohol misuse that could affect your being able to perform a safety-sensitive function is prohibited. A safety-sensitive function is defined as the moment you get to work until the time you are relieved from work. That whole time period is safety-sensitive, so don’t drink.
But that’s not all. Other prohibited alcohol uses include:
- Using alcohol within 4 hours of needing to perform a safety-sensitive function;
- Reporting for duty or staying on duty with a blood-alcohol content of 0.04 or greater;
- Using alcohol during the 8-hour period following an accident;
- Using alcohol any time before undergoing a post-accident test;
- Refusing to take a required test.
Like alcohol, any drug use that could negatively impact your ability to perform a safety-sensitive function is prohibited.
Other examples include:
- Use of any drug that has not been prescribed by a doctor or had a doctor provide clearance for your ability to take it and still safely operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV);
- Testing positive for drugs;
- Having a substituted or adulterated test result;
- Refusing to take a required test.
Keep in mind that if you are on any sort of therapeutic drugs, your company may require you to disclose such medications, side effects, and frequency by which you take them.
Also take note that if you have a BAC concentration of even just 0.02 or greater, you may be required to sit out performing safety-sensitive functions for at least 24 hours.
What if You Fail?
Obviously, failing a drug or alcohol test for any unsanctioned reason is prohibited and will come with serious consequences. The same applies if you refuse to take the test, as doing so in of itself is almost an admission of guilt.
If you do fail or refuse, you will be removed from all safety-sensitive functions (your job) until you can go through a return-to-duty process. Under FMCSR regulations you will be prohibited from operating a CMV until you have completed this process.
In many cases you may not get a review at all. More than a few motor carriers have zero tolerance policies when it comes to drug and alcohol infractions. After all, their safety scores are at stake. Get caught failing or refusing a test and you may lose your job or jeopardize your entire career.
Types of Drug and Alcohol Tests
There are five main types of drug and alcohol tests. Join us in the next two parts of our series as we go into greater detail on each of these different test types.
- Pre-employment testing;
- Post-accident testing;
- Random testing;
- Reasonable suspicion testing;
- Return-to-duty or follow-up testing.
In the meantime, make sure when you get behind the wheel, you are stone-cold sober. It’s not just your career at stake, it’s the safety of you and those around you.