Drug And Alcohol Testing For Holders Of Commercial Driver's Licenses

To achieve the goal of a drug- and alcohol-free transportation environment, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation ("DOT") has adopted regulations (the "DOT Regulations") requiring certain commercial motor vehicle operators to be tested for alcohol and drugs. Commercial driver's license ("CDL") holders are covered by the DOT Regulations and must submit to preemployment, post-accident, random, reasonable-suspicion, return-to-duty, and follow-up testing for alcohol and controlled substances.

This article briefly summarizes the alcohol and controlled- substances testing requirements under the DOT Regulations, which are a matter of utmost importance to CDL holders who make their livelihood operating commercial vehicles and to employers whose businesses involve a trucking component or other use of commercial vehicles. Given the severity of possible penalties for violations of the DOT Regulations, including loss of license for CDL holders and financial and other penalties for such businesses, CDL holders and employers must learn and comply with the regulations.

CDL BASICS

A CDL is required for operators of any large vehicle, whether such operation is for work or another reason. There are three classes of CDL licenses. Class A is required for anyone driving a vehicle that weighs more than 26,000 pounds and towing more than 10,000 pounds. Class B licenses are required for vehicles that weigh more than 26,000 pounds, but are towing less than 10,000 pounds. Lastly, Class C is the license needed for any vehicle that doesn't meet Class A or Class B requirements but that can hold 16 or more passengers or is designed to transport hazardous materials.

In New Jersey, non-CDL drivers are over the legal limit if their blood alcohol concentration exceeds 0.08%. However, CDL holders are considered over the limit for licensing purposes if their blood alcohol content is higher than 0.04%. The threshold for CDL holders is significantly lower than the limit of 0.08% under New Jersey law and can be exceeded by imbibing as few as two alcoholic beverages.

If convicted of a first offense, the holder of a CDL will lose commercial driving privileges for a one-year period. The same penalties apply for a first refusal to provide a breath sample and a first-offense conviction for driving under the influence of a controlled substance.

What types of testing are required?

Pre-Employment Testing: With limited exceptions, employers may not allow drivers to perform safety-sensitive functions (as defined in the DOT Regulations) before receiving a negative test result for controlled...

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