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Commercial DUI Regulations

Drivers with commercial licenses are subject to different standards concerning driving under the influence (DUI) charges. Bus drivers, truck drivers, and other professionals with a commercial driver's license (CDL) are held to a higher standard than noncommercial drivers with respect to impaired driving. This higher standard is established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

The stakes are higher for commercial drivers than for typical motorists. A drunk or drugged commercial driver poses a serious threat to public safety and is also a serious liability to their employer. Not only are commercial drivers pulling more weight, but they may also be transporting hazardous materials.

This article addresses who is subject to the FMCSA regulations. It also discusses blood alcohol limits set by the FMCSA. The article goes on to address alcohol and drug tests, including blood tests and chemical tests, for commercial drivers. Finally, the effects of a commercial DUI charge are discussed.

Who Does the FMCSA Affect?

Drivers and employers who may be subject to FMCSA regulations regarding drug and alcohol use by commercial drivers include:

  • 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 such as disabled veteran transport or Girl Scouts
  • Churches

FMCSA Blood Alcohol Limits

Most states have adopted the FMCSA regulations regarding commercial drivers and alcohol limits. The FMCSA regulations set a 0.04% blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) limit. In most states, this is half the legal limit for noncommercial drivers regarding blood alcohol content. The FMCSA rules also preclude commercial drivers from operating a commercial vehicle within four hours of consuming alcohol.

Alcohol and Drug Tests for Commercial Drivers

Commercial drivers may be required to submit to alcohol testing at various times. Testing can occur:

  • Randomly
  • By law enforcement after an accident
  • When there is reasonable suspicion
  • As a condition of returning to duty following an alcohol policy violation

In addition to alcohol testing, the FMCSA regulations allow for drug testing in the following circumstances:

  • As a condition of employment
  • Where there is reasonable suspicion
  • After an accident
  • As a condition of returning to duty following a drug policy violation

The following drugs are often screened: marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, opiates, and phencyclidine (PCP).

Commercial drivers who refuse to submit to a blood alcohol test face harsher penalties than typical drivers when pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. Under FMCSA rules, refusal to take a blood alcohol test is the equivalent of pleading guilty to a DUI charge. Drivers may face jail time and be required to perform community service. They may also be required to install an ignition interlock device on their vehicle.

Effects of a Commercial DUI Case

Aside from the lower threshold for BAC levels, CDL holders charged with impaired driving while on the job are subject to the same criminal law procedures as noncommercial DUI defendants. A DUI conviction for a commercial vehicle driver can result in a longer license suspension than for a passenger vehicle DUI, even if it's a first offense. This can mean a loss of livelihood for a commercial driver.

Additionally, CDL holders convicted of any traffic violation other than a parking offense must notify their employer within 30 days. This is true even if the driver was driving a noncommercial vehicle at the time of the offense.

For example, a truck driver convicted of a DUI offense in his personal vehicle while off duty must notify his employer of the conviction. Suppose the DUI results in a suspended or revoked license. In that case, the employer is precluded from employing the driver for the duration of the license disqualification. Securing employment as a commercial driver with a DUI on your record can be extremely difficult.

Get Legal Help With Your Commercial Drunk Driving Case

A commercial DUI can wipe out your livelihood. The stakes are high, particularly if there's a driver's license suspension and loss of driving privileges. Consult with a local DUI attorney to learn more about your state laws. A defense attorney is familiar with DUI laws and can help you with your criminal defense and possibly eliminate DUI penalties. Meeting with a DUI lawyer after your DWI or DUI arrest, whether it's your first DUI or second DUI, will aid you in your DUI defense.

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