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Drug Testing: A Core Requirement For Commercial Truck Drivers

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Truck accidents are common in the United States and cause many fatal injuries each year. Most truck accidents result from the following:

  • Falling asleep behind the wheel
  • Distracted driving (texting, eating, adjusting music, etc.)
  • Speeding
  • Driving under the influence (drugs, alcohol)

The fatality rate of truck accidents has led different states to draft laws aimed at preventing these incidents. The Transportation Employee Testing Act, passed by Congress in 1991, mandated that the Department of Transportation establish drug and alcohol testing for employees.

By this law, truck drivers must submit themselves to drug testing. It is now the driver’s responsibility to adhere to the drug testing rule. Truck drivers are subjected to drug testing several times throughout their careers to ensure that they are in a good state of mind to drive.

What is a Drug Test Analysis?

As a transport company employee, you undergo a series of tests, including drug tests from your company. However, the drug test by the Department of Transportation is different.

They check for drugs using a urine sample and check for alcohol using a breathalyzer. The findings of this drug test are not immediate or quick. For the most reliable results, all samples are thoroughly analyzed. The drug test analysis is to test for the presence of:

  • Marijuana
  • Amphetamines or methamphetamine
  • Cocaine
  • Phencyclidine
  • Opiates or codeine  

On the other hand, the breathalyzer checks for alcohol concentration levels of 0.002 and above. The test can detect traces of drugs or alcohol from a person who used either substance in the past 30 days. 

Who are the Tests For?

The alcohol and drug testing rules apply to most commercially licensed drivers on public roadways. The aim of drug testing on these commercial truck drivers is to dissuade them from abusing drugs and alcohol, thereby endangering the lives of other road users.

The rules and regulations are there for the safety of truck drivers and everyone else on the road. Truck drivers should not see the drug test as a bothersome task. Employers must recognize and respond to an employee’s alcohol or drug problem as early as possible.

The drug test is not restricted to only truck drivers. Other professionals, such as airline crew, train operators, or people working on pipelines, must also take the drug and alcohol test. 

When are the Tests Required?

Truck drivers take alcohol and drug tests on different occasions. The first is the pre-employment stage. In this stage, the company requires its employees to carry out a drug test independently. A negative result must be presented to the employer before the candidate can drive a commercial motor vehicle.

A driver may also be subjected to a drug test if there are suspicions that they are under the influence. This suspicion may arise from the driver’s looks, smell, or the way they speak. If the evidence backs up the accusation, the driver will be required to undergo a drug test for confirmation.

If a truck driver is involved in an accident, the alcohol and drug testing depends solely on how severe the crash was. The driver will still undergo these tests whether the collision involves bodily harm or not. Undergoing the test will ensure insurance protection for both the driver and the company. The results from an alcohol test will be ready within 8 hours after a crash, while a drug test takes up to 32 hours.

A truck driver may also be subjected to random testing. The random test happens every quarter of the year. Employers must adhere to arbitrary selection rules.

Drug Test Preparation

Before going in for a drug test, you should drink lots of water and stay hydrated, as a urine sample is required. Also, if you are on any legal, prescriptive medication, it may tamper with your drug test result. It is best to notify the healthcare provider about your legal medications to avoid a false-positive result. In these cases, you may have to do a follow-up test and show your prescription information.

What Does a Positive Drug Test Result Signify?

If an individual tests positive or even refrains from taking the drug test, they risk losing authorization to drive a commercial motor vehicle or perform other safety-sensitive functions. Additionally, the person may lose their commercial driver’s license or certification. They will have to undergo complete return-to-duty drug tests and screenings to return to work.

The return-to-duty drug test will be carried out under the supervision of a qualified substance abuse professional from the Department of Transportation. The individual must also provide at least six negative results directly observed by the department within a year. This may extend to four additional years.

Does a Positive Result Have an Impact On My Record?

Testing positive to alcohol and drug tests will undoubtedly impact your record until the return-to-duty screening process is fully complete. Afterward, the violation will remain on CDL Clearinghouse for about five years.

The CDL Clearinghouse provides an online database where government agencies and employers can have real-time access to details about an individual’s CDL drug and alcohol program violations. Potential employers can only access your drug test with your consent, but your refusal to give consent may lead to lost opportunities.

Learn More about Truck Driver Drug Testing

The commercial truck driver requirements for drug and alcohol testing may seem rigid, but these precautions are for the safety of the driver and all other road users. As an individual who performs safety-sensitive functions, it is crucial to take these precautions to prevent serious accidents.