Most professional truck drivers follow the zero tolerance rules about drinking and drugs before driving a tractor trailer or other commercial vehicle. As a trucking safety trial attorney in Atlanta, Georgia, I see a lot of serious safety violations but seldom one involving DUI.
But a recent tragedy in West Virginia demonstrates why there is no tolerance for truck drivers operating an 80,000 pound, 18-wheeler semi tractor trailer truck when impaired by alcohol or drugs. Police there say Breazeale Norris was driving drunk when he hit a car on I-64 in December 2009. One 18-year-old boy died in the crash and three others were injured. Norris was charged with DUI causing death and leaving the scene of an accident.
About 37% of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations deals with alcohol and drug testing procedures.
49 C.F.R. § 392.5 absolutely prohibits use or possession of alcohol in operation of a commercial motor vehicle. “No driver shall . . . [u]se alcohol, . . . or be under the influence of alcohol, within 4 hours before going on duty or operating, or having physical control of, a commercial motor vehicle; or . . . [u]se alcohol, be under the influence of alcohol, or have any measured alcohol concentration or detected presence of alcohol, while on duty, or operating, or in physical control of a commercial motor vehicle.” Any driver is violation of this is placed in “out of service status” for 24 hours.
It further provides that “No motor carrier shall require or permit a driver to . . . [v]iolate any provision [of this section or] [b]e on duty or operate a commercial motor vehicle if, by the driver’s general appearance or conduct or by other substantiating evidence, the driver appears to have used alcohol within the preceding 4 hours.”
49 C.F.R. § 391.15 provides that a driver is disqualified by driving a commercial vehicle with blood alcohol 0.04% or more, or under influence of drugs, or refusing to take drug or alcohol test.
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