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How Drug Tests For Truck Drivers Are Supposed to Work.

Our experience has shown us that in most cases when truck drivers get into accidents, alcohol or drugs have been an influence. According to the regulations enforced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), all trucking companies are required to submit those employees who have a commercial driver’s license (CDL) for job duties, to random drug and alcohol testing.

But more importantly, after an accident, drivers often submit to two drug tests: one from the police, the other from their employer. Below, we’ll discuss how all this works. If you’ve not already, make sure you read our popular Guide to Truck Accident Law before you go.

Questions answered on this page:

  • Who is responsible to make sure that truck drivers are drug tested?
  • After an accident, is drug testing mandatory?
  • If a truck driver is under the influence, aren’t they automatically guilty?
  • What do drug test results do for my case?

When do employers drug test truck drivers?

Responsible trucking companies require drivers to undergo random drug testing. While surely annoying for drivers, this helps identify drivers with drug problems before they cause accidents.

There are also numerous federally-imposed regulations for when and how employers must test their employees for drugs. The most relevant for our purposes are preemployment and post-accident testing.

  1. Preemployment: Before any driver hits the road, he must undergo a toxicology screen. This is to test for drugs and alcohol. Under the rules, if the driver tests positive for anything at all—even trace amounts of alcohol, marijuana, meth, or other intoxicating substance—they’re not allowed out onto the road. This applies to many prescription drugs as well.
  2. After a deadly accident: Regardless of whom the police believe was at fault for the incident, professional truck drivers must be tested for drugs and alcohol after an accident involving a fatality. This is to remove any guesswork in these most serious of cases. The drug test must happen within 32 hours of the incident, the alcohol test within 8, or the employer must be able to explain why and is potentially subject to penalties.
  3. After a non-fatal accident where police cited the driver: Where there was serious injury or damage to vehicles AND the police determined that it was the truck driver’s fault, his employer must drug test the driver.

Keep in mind, if the police or state troopers secure a drug test within that time frame, the employer doesn’t technically have to do their own. Responsible trucking companies will generally go ahead and have their drivers tested after an accident. Even where employers don’t have to test their drivers, it’s considered a “best practice”.

When do the police drug test 18-wheeler drivers?

Unlike employers, the police cannot simply demand that drivers submit to an alcohol or drug test. The 4th Amendment prohibits non-consensual testing without a warrant from a judge. That’s why after an accident involving serious bodily injury or a fatality, the police often detain the driver, go before a judge or magistrate, and secure a warrant for a blood draw.

How the trucking industry stacks the deck in their favor Read More >

Once this happens, a police or hospital nurse then takes a sample for analysis. We are able to get this data from the cops through an open-records request.

How we use the results of the drug test.

It may seem like common sense that if there are any drugs or alcohol in the driver’s system during an accident, then your case is “open and shut.” It may seem that common sense would dictate that a truck driver with illegal chemicals or alcohol in their system at the scene of an accident, has at least some guilt in causing the accident. But, your truck accident attorney must be able to show that, but for the drugs or alcohol, the accident wouldn’t have happened. Here are two scenarios explaining what we mean involving a truck swerving into you:

  • After an accident, the driver’s blood test shows he had a great deal of THC—the active chemical in marijuana—in his system. His driving pattern prior to the accident showed a distracted, drowsy demeanor. In all likelihood, the marijuana use was the cause of the accident.
  • A driver’s intoxicants test comes back positive for alcohol, putting his blood-alcohol level at .10. As you know, this is DWI-territory. But, the investigating authority also found that the 18-wheeler had a factory defect that impaired the mechanical integrity of the truck. In this case, the driver’s intoxication would have had little or nothing to do with the incident.

You may be asking yourself, “But, wasn’t the driver still drunk? How does the driver get away with that?” The factory defect in the semi-truck, to the defense, will more of a contributing factor to the accident than the driver’s level of intoxication.

The point here is that your lawyer must be able to draw a straight line from the intoxication to the accident. Many inexperienced lawyers get tripped up here and just assume that a bad intox screen equals a big payday. It doesn’t. A thorough attorney will hire the following experts: 1) a toxicologist to explain to the jury exactly what the level of intoxication means in real terms, and 2) an accident reconstructionist to detail how the accident truly happened.

It’s time to call an experienced attorney.

If you’ve been injured or lost a loved one in an accident with an 18-wheeler that you have reason to believe was being operated by someone who was intoxicated or under the influence of drugs, you need an experienced 18-wheeler accident attorney. At Grossman Law Offices, we’ve been litigating truck accident cases for 25 years involving intoxicated drivers. We can subpoena the records of the trucking company and then sift through those records to determine whether or not the trucking company was following regulations as required, or merely pretending to do so.

To learn more about how we can help you or just to ask the lingering questions that are plaguing your mind about the case, call us now for a free consultation at (855) 326-0000 (toll free).


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