Does the DOT Require Post-Accident Drug Testing For Commercial Truck Drivers?

old truck driver in truck during the dayDriving while impaired is a reckless decision that others often pay the price for. If the impaired driver is operating a commercial truck, the risk of a dangerous crash occurring increases significantly.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires truckers to get drug tested at certain times in an effort to prevent crashes due to impaired driving. These tests also help investigators to find out if a driver involved in a crash was under the influence. Below, learn more about post-accident drug testing for commercial trucks. You may be surprised to learn about situations where drug testing is not required.

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When Do Truck Drivers Get Drug Tested?

The Department of Transportation (DOT) requires those with a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to get tested for drugs and alcohol at various times during their employment, including:

  • Pre-employment testing before they begin work as a CDL driver: This is part of their background check
  • After certain types of truck accidents
  • At other times when requested and as part of randomized drug testing: This additional testing is done every quarter, and all employees have an equal chance of being selected for testing.
  • Anytime there is a reasonable suspicion the driver is under the influence or has been using drugs on or off the job
  • Return-to-duty testing, which is required after drivers tested positive, refused to take a test or otherwise violated the law
  • Follow-up testing, which is much the same as return-to-duty testing

Drivers do not have to be full-time to be subject to these requirements. Any part-time, intermittent, backup or international drivers are also subject to drug testing.

What is the Most Common Drug Test for Truck Drivers?

The most common drug test for CDL drivers is the five-panel urine test. In this test, the driver’s urine will be tested for:

  • THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana
  • Opiates (any opium or codeine derivatives, including morphine, heroin, oxycodone, oxymorphone, hydrocodone and hydromorphone)
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)
  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamines, including MDMA and methamphetamines

What Drugs Do Truck Drivers Often Take?

Truck drivers often take cocaine or amphetamines to help them stay awake longer and maintain the focus required to safely operate their vehicles. They sometimes abuse medications used to treat attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), as these medications help stimulate the mind and improve concentration.

It is hard for drivers to make their deadlines without staying on the road for many hours at a time, which makes it harder to get adequate sleep. This leads some drivers to turn to drugs the way many of us drink coffee in the morning to help us wake up.

Truck drivers often develop many chronic health conditions because they do not get enough sleep and because of the sedentary nature of their jobs. This often results in the use of alcohol, marijuana and other drugs to help them cope.

When Are CDL Drivers Required to Get a Post-Accident Drug Test?

The FMCSA requires post-accident drug testing if the crash caused:

  • A fatality, whether a citation was issued to the truck driver or not
  • Bodily injury that requires immediate medical treatment away from the scene, but only if a citation was issued to the driver
  • Disabling damage to a vehicle that requires the vehicle to be towed, but only if a citation is issued to the truck driver

That means drug testing is not required after accidents that cause bodily injury when police fail to issue a citation.

It is important to note that even if the law does not require a drug or alcohol test, the driver’s employer might.

How Much Time Do Drivers Get to Do a Post-Crash Drug Test?

Under the law, employers are required to test drivers for drugs or alcohol as soon as is practical after the crash.

FMCSA rules state that an alcohol test should be done within two hours of the accident. However, sometimes the driver cannot make it in for testing within two hours. For instance, if the driver gets stuck at the scene while the crash is being investigated.

If the driver cannot get the test done within two hours, he or she must provide a written explanation. The driver’s employer must also write a note explaining why the deadline was missed and keep it on file.

Drug/controlled substances tests must be done within 32 hours of the accident.

What if the Driver Does Not Do the Test Within That Time?

If more than eight hours pass without an alcohol test, employers must stop attempting to do a test. The employer is likely to face fines for non-compliance with drug-testing rules. Missing the deadline may also trigger an audit.

If a drug test is not done within 32 hours, the driver’s employer faces fines and an audit. The reasons why the test was missed must also be documented.

What if the Driver Was Tested For Alcohol at the Crash Scene?

Even if the driver took a breathalyzer test at the scene, he or she is required to get an official test within the allotted time. This is because tests done by police officers at the scene of a commercial truck crash do not meet DOT regulations.

How Long Does It Take for the Results to Come Back?

Alcohol tests produce results almost immediately. Drug tests are going to take longer.

What Happens if the Driver Tests Positive in a DOT Drug Test?

He or she will be prohibited from driving until the Return-to-Duty process has been completed. This is a six-step process that concludes with a drug test.

The second step in the process, after removing the driver from safety-sensitive functions, is a referral to a substance abuse professional. Drivers must meet with this person or their career in the industry may be over. The next step is entrance into a drug and alcohol treatment program. Once this program has been completed, the substance abuse professional will do a follow-up evaluation. If the driver passes a return-to-duty drug test, he or she should be able to go back to work.

DOT requires six follow-up drug tests over a one-year period. These tests will not be announced.

What to Do if You Suspect a Truck Driver is Drunk or Impaired?

If you are involved in a truck crash and you suspect the driver is drunk, make sure you tell the police officer who comes to the scene. Tell him or her the reasons why you suspect alcohol or drugs may have been involved in the crash.

For example, one sign of an impaired driver may be an open trailer door, as drunk truck drivers may overlook simple safety precautions. If you smell alcohol on the driver’s breath, or he or she appears to be stumbling around, tell the police. You may have also noticed erratic driving before the crash, such as speeding, struggling to stay in a lane or tailgating you or another vehicle.

By informing the police about your suspicions, you help to ensure they will at least consider the possibility of the driver being drunk. They may be more likely to conduct a field sobriety test or ask the driver to blow into a breathalyzer, increasing the chances of a citation being issued. If a citation is issued, the driver may be required to undergo a drug or alcohol test by his or her employer.

Talking to an attorney is important after a truck crash. Trucking companies, their insurance companies and other at-fault parties will work hard to escape liability for a collision involving one of their drivers. You need an attorney who will be focused on your best interests to help level the playing field.

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