Laws Regarding Truck Driver Drunk Driving


Strongly supporting sober driving keeps all of our valuable trucker drivers and other community members out of harm’s way. There’s no doubt that truck drivers and alcohol do not mix. It’s also important to understand that truckers face heightened scrutiny, and your livelihood is at risk if you have a single drink within four hours of operating a commercial vehicle. These are alcohol awareness issues truckers should know.

Although a great deal of emphasis is placed on CDL holders who operate big rigs and make long-hauls, it’s important to understand that state and federal authorities take a much broader view when it comes to DUI enforcement. Certainly, drivers operating 18-wheelers operating under the influence of alcohol pose an imminent danger to themselves and others. But authorities have zero tolerance for those driving any commercial motor vehicle. The following drivers and owners may be held accountable under FMCSA regulations.

  • Any person who leases or owns a commercial motor vehicle
  • Any driver hired or assigned to operate a commercial vehicle
  • Commercial vehicle owner-operators
  • Independent freight hauling companies
  • Companies with commercial fleets
  • Non-profit and civic organizations

The important takeaway from the perspective of federal and state authorities is that DUI penaltiescan be broadly applied to a wide range of driver-for-hire and non-profit scenarios. Professional CDL holders are just the highest-profile example. Professional drivers are also subject to higher standards regarding DUI enforcement methods and outcomes.

For example, CDL holders are required by law to submit to a roadside impairment examination if a law enforcement official has a reasonable suspicion they are impaired. Refusing to take a roadside examination or breathalyzer generally results in penalties being imposed as if the driver failed. A trucker may also be subject to random drug and alcohol testing if they have a prior incident or alcohol use is suspected. Should a driver fail a breathalyzer or refuse testing, license suspensions generally exceed those by passenger vehicle operators. Refusal is considered the same as being found guilty.

Beyond a DUI conviction while operating a commercial vehicle, CDL holders are required to notify their employers of any non-professional driving offenses. This includes anything other than parking tickets, and employers may have the legal right to suspend a driver who was arrested for DUI off duty. The theory behind the heightened scrutiny and enforcement of CDL and DUI issues is that a person gives implied consent to undergo testing by securing the ability to make a living driving truck.

Many states have already implemented zero-tolerance policies for CDL holders who engage in DUI. First offenses include high fines and lengthy license suspension. In some states, a second offense can result in permanent loss of license. Drinking and driving is one of the few ways a truck driving can end up in the unemployment line.