CMV Driver Litigation: Drug & Alcohol Training

Drug and Alcohol Training: Overview

The regulations provide explicit directions for required education of drivers on alcohol/drug use policies, and the legal ramifications of drug and alcohol use while performing safety sensitive functions. Further, the regulations require certain training of driver supervisors to enable them to determine whether reasonable suspicion exists to order testing.

Required Drug and Alcohol Training for Drivers and Supervisors

1. Motor carriers are required to provide written educational materials describing its policies and the regulations governing drug and alcohol use. These materials must be provided to each driver before drug or alcohol testing occurs, and to each driver hired or transferred into a position requiring operation of a CMV.

2. The materials must provide “detailed information” on a number of subject areas, including the identity of the person at the motor carrier who can answer drug/alcohol related questions, specific information about what is prohibited and when, the circumstances when testing may occur, the procedures for testing, explanation of what happens if the driver refuses a test, consequences of positive tests, or tests revealing a BAC between .02 and .03, information about the consequences of alcohol and drugs on health, signs and symptoms of alcohol or drug use, and methods of intervening when a problem is suspected.

3. Information regarding the employer’s policies regarding use of alcohol or drugs, including consequences of a positive test based on the employer’s authority independent of the regulations should be disclosed to drivers. “Any such additional policies or consequences must be clearly and obviously described as being based on independent authority.”

4. All driver supervisors must receive at least sixty minutes of training on alcohol misuse and a like amount on drug use. This is intended to equip supervisors to determine whether there is reasonable suspicion to order testing.

Observations

Questions based on this sub-section are recommended when in the event of a positive test, to determine if the driver received sufficient information from the motor carrier to avoid the mess he caused by driving while impaired. It is not unknown for an impaired driver to want to blame someone else, so he may be cooperative in recognizing motor carrier liability above and beyond the actual rule of the road violation.
It is probably the exception to the rule that a motor carrier complies with the letter of 382.601 in its training. Smaller motor carriers may not provide any educational materials, which may be evidence of negligent supervision or hiring. And it is not beyond chance that a driver may operate a CMV in violation of some aspect of the regulations governing alcohol and drug use, simply because he did not know what was prohibited. If so, educated questioning may reveal a flaw in the motor carrier’s operations that allowed an impaired driver to get behind the wheel and cause an accident.

Pertinent Case Law

Case law construing this sub-section is sparse, and only concerns employment issues. Although, in the context of a wrongful termination suit, one court held that no private cause of action is created by breach of 382.601. Wilder v. GL Bus Lines, 2000 WL 959751 (S.D.N.Y. July 11, 2000).

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