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Friday, August 15, 2008

Drug and Alcohol Testing for CDL Drivers is a Complex Issue

By Richard Slagle

The issue of drug and alcohol testing of county employees has, at best, been a gray area. Questions frequently arise as to when an employee's protection under the Fourth Amendment of the Federal Constitution and Article 1, Section 9 of the Texas Constitution (unreasonable search and seizure by a governmental entity) is overridden by a greater governmental need to test for drugs and alcohol.

To further add to the confusion, the courts have not been consistent in their answers. While testing public sector employees in "safety-sensitive positions" has been found acceptable by different courts to varying degrees, the definition of "safety-sensitive position" itself can be highly subjective. Needless to say, it is quite a challenge for a county to develop an effective drug and alcohol testing program without the possibility of violating an employee's constitutional rights.

There is one area of county employment, however, where the right to conduct drug and alcohol tests is not only clearly defined, it is specifically required. In fact, failure to follow the requirements can lead to severe penalties.

What employee group falls into this category? — county employees who drive vehicles that require the driver to have a commercial drivers' license (CDL). These requirements, administered by the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), are not new.

Testing for drivers in counties with 50 or more qualifying CDL drivers became effective on Jan. 1, 1995 and, for counties with fewer than 50 qualifying drivers, testing became effective on Jan. 1, 1996.

Any county that operates vehicles that meet the definition of a "commercial vehicle," as defined in the regulations, is subject to the testing requirements and responsibilities, as are all drivers who operate those vehicles. By definition, a commercial vehicle, for purposes of these drug and alcohol testing requirements, includes any vehicle which:

  • Has a gross combination weight rating of 11,794 or more kilograms (26,001 or more pounds) inclusive of a towed unit with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 4,536 kilograms (10,000 pounds); or

  • Has a gross vehicle weight rating of 11,794 kilograms or more (26,001 or more pounds); or

  • Is designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver; or
    Is any size and is used in the transportation of materials found to be hazardous for the purposes of the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act (49 U.S.C. 5103(b)) and which require the motor vehicle to be placarded under the Hazardous Materials Regulations (49 CFR part 172, subpart F)

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    For CDL drivers in Frederick Maryland... if you even think you're dirty, don't test.
    If you have need for the sentence above, go to one or more of my blogs:

    You can... drink lots of water to pass a drug screen, but you won't really be out of suspicion, you might not test positive, but the test can come back 'diluted'...

    I know of someone who: got hit by a car (not their fault, the truck didn't hit the car, the car hit the truck), drank lots of water... thought they were out of the forrest... test came back diluted... had to retest

    it wasn't pretty...

    if you aren't clean, do NOT drive, it's as simple as that.

    When you wiegh 80,000 lbs everyone else's life is in your hands.

    This site is not responsible for libel, any driver who ever worked for a truck company is welcome to rate any company they worked for, of course if they got fired, they might not give an accurate description of what it was like to work there.

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