What are the post-accident truck driver alcohol testing requirements?

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Truck drivers have a larger responsibility than most to ensure the safety of others around them. This is especially true in regards to impaired driving, which is why the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires employers to test all employees for drugs and alcohol.

When must an employer test a driver for alcohol?

Under 49 C.F.R. §§ 382.301-382.311 (2006) employers must test their drivers for drugs and alcohol:

  • Before hiring (only required for drugs)
  • If there is reasonable suspicion they are under the influence
  • Randomly throughout the year
  • Before they return to duty (after failing or refusing the rest)
  • For a follow-up: Employers must test drivers after they complete the return-to-duty process and test negative on their return-to-duty test.


Employers must also test their drivers after an accident if the following criteria apply.

  • A human life is lost – regardless of whether an officer issued the commercial driver a citation.
  • Someone suffers serious medical complications such as bodily injury that required medical treatment away from the scene, and an officer issued the commercial driver a citation within 8 hours of the accident.
  • If a vehicle suffers disabling damage requiring towing and an officer issues the driver a citation within 8 hours.


Under Department of Transportation guidelines, employers must test their drivers for alcohol within eight hours and drugs within 32 hours.

A driver may not refuse these tests. In the event that a driver tests positive for alcohol above the legal limit, or if the driver refuses to submit to the test, the employer must remove him from duty. The driver cannot return to work without completing a substance abuse program and undergoing return-to-work testing.

What is the legal blood alcohol limit for a commercial truck driver?

In Washington State, the legal limit for a commercial truck driver is .04 percent alcohol (half the legal limit for passenger vehicle drivers). The FMCSA also states that truck drivers cannot get behind the wheel if they had a drink in the last four hours.

I believe an impaired driver caused my accident and injuries. What can I do?

If a victim sustains injuries in an accident caused by a negligent driver, the victim is usually eligible to receive compensation for damages. To be eligible, the victim must provide evidence that shows the driver drove under the influence and that his actions caused the crash. Getting proof may be difficult so it is in your best interests to hire a lawyer.

A truck accident lawyer can send the trucking company a letter of spoliation to ensure it does not destroy evidence such as alcohol or drug tests, service hours logs, inspection records, or the driver’s personnel file.  Be sure to act fast because the company can destroy records after a certain time.

If you or someone you love suffered injuries in a trucking accident, contact the attorneys at Max Meyers Law PLLC at 425-399-7000.

Max Meyers
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Max is a Kirkland personal injury attorney handling cases in Seattle, King County & surrounding in WA State.