Navigating a 40 ton 18 wheeler through traffic and down the road is a big responsibility. That’s why the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has tight laws when it comes to alcohol use for truckers, both before, and during hours of service. It’s crucial that truckers stay up to date and obey current regulations for their own safety as well as that of others. Also, facing a DUI could mean getting your license suspended, or even revoked altogether.
The FMCSA website defines alcohol and its use as, “Alcohol means the intoxicating agent in beverage alcohol, ethyl alcohol, or other low molecular weight alcohols including methyl and isopropyl alcohol. Alcohol use means the drinking or swallowing of any beverage, liquid mixture or preparation (including any medication), containing alcohol.” The FMCSA regulations state that no commercial driver may report for duty while having an alcohol blood level concentration of 0.04 or greater; which is only half of the legal level for non-commercial drivers of 0.08. In addition, no commercial driver may report for duty within 4 hours from using alcohol.
The FMCSA website also clarifies that drivers may be subjected to random BAC testing as well as reasonable suspicion BAC testing. Refusing to do a BAC means automatically forfeiting your CDL for a year in most states. Also, if truck drivers are charged with drunk driving, even while driving their own private vehicle, their CDL can still be suspended for 90 days. If charged while driving a commercial vehicle, first-time offenders face a one-year suspension of their CDL and multiple time offenders’ licenses will be revoked completely without even being able to apply again for a new CDL for another 10 years.
So what do the FMCSA alcohol consumption regulations translate to in reality? The rule clearly states that alcohol must be consumed more than 4 hours before hours of service. But how much alcohol, pre-hours of duty, is too much? Well, that depends on each person’s body type, age, weight and more. According to an article by Very Well Mind, one standard American alcoholic drink is thought to produce a blood alcohol concentration of between 0.02 and 0.04. Also, it’s estimated that after two drinks, it will probably take anywhere from four to six hours for one’s BAC to return to zero. It’s also important to remember that accidents can happen with even a seemingly insignificant BAC. For example, in 2017, there were 1,837 alcohol-related crashes where drivers had lower alcohol levels (BAC of 0.1 to 0.7)
Many truckers may feel frustrated with the FMCSA’s tight alcohol regulations for several reasons.
Cons of strict FMCSA alcohol regulations for truckers:
- Strict regulations may hamper the truck driver’s freedom to enjoy a good timeout with friends and family
Most truckers already struggle to find downtime with friends and family due to their busy schedules on the road. The 4-hour pre-duty alcohol-free time frame that FMCSA requires of drivers may add yet additional strain and difficulty to drivers, who are already struggling to find time for their personal life.
2. Reduced ability to use herbal medications pre-duty and on duty
Some truckers rely on natural alternatives for health conditions. Even though natural medicine tinctures like Echinacea, Ginseng, Flu Buster, etc. only contain a small amount of alcohol, it may be enough to interfere with blood alcohol level results. Due to FMCSA regulations, drivers may be inconvenienced and limited as to which natural medicines they are able to use pre-duty and while on duty.
3. Reduced ability to use over the counter and prescription drugs that contain alcohol
Just as certain natural medications contain alcohol and must be avoided by drivers pre-hours of service and also hours of duty, there are several both over the counter and prescription medications, that could affect driver’s BAC. A few examples of such medications are Vicks 44, Nyquil, Albuterol (used in inhalers for asthma), and even certain kinds of cough drops.
While the FMCSA alcohol intake regulations for truckers may be strict and have some drawbacks, the benefits of following the law greatly outweigh the small inconveniences. FMCSA alcohol consumption restrictions are crucial for the safety and well-being of all.
Benefits of following FMCSA alcohol regulations:
1.Increased safety of truck drivers as well as the safety of other motorist and pedestrians on the road
According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, “Every day, almost 30 people in the United States die in drunk-driving crashes. Drunk-driving claims more than 10,000 lives per year.” In 2010 it was calculated that these accidents and deaths contributed to a cost of $44 billion dollars that year. Making sure that drivers are sober is the number one way to avoid accidents, thereby saving lives and money.
2. Keep your job!
Truckers face serious consequences if they get a DUI. For a first time offender, his/her CDL will be suspended for one year. At the end of that year, the CDL will be automatically returned to the offender. For a second or third time offender, his/her CDL will be revoked for a minimum of 10 years. After the 10 years is up, the driver will NOT automatically get the license returned. He/she will have to reply to a new CDL. Even if a trucker is driving his or her own personal vehicle, if charged with a DUI, his/her CDL can still be suspended for 90 days. For truckers, a suspended CDL means a suspended job and that means suspended income.
3. Live a healthy and happy lifestyle
Following the FMCSA alcohol regulations can keep truck drivers happy and healthy by helping them to avoid unhealthy alcohol intakes which can lead to disease and even death. Unfortunately, the statistics of alcoholism in America are shockingly high. According to Talbott Recovery, an alcoholism recovery center, “More than 15 million people struggle with an alcohol use disorder in the United States, but less than eight percent of those receive treatment.” It’s also believed that 88,000 people die in America each year due to alcohol-related deaths. Alcohol can cause a wide variety of diseases such as liver disease, pancreatitis, stomach disease, depression, cancer, brain damage and more. Sadly, alcohol continues to be one of the nation’s most preventable causes of death.