Drunk driving is one of the serious matters in the trucking industry of the US. Due to their larger sizes, heavy loads, hazardous materials, and long hours of driving, there are strict regulations for truck drivers regarding alcohol use during their duty hours.
Can Truck Drivers Drink Off Duty? Truck drivers can drink off duty, and there should be a gap of a minimum of 4 hours before driving. Moreover, their BAC should be less than 0.04%. FMCSA regulation 392.5 prohibits them from taking alcohol within 4 hours before driving and also possession of any wine containing alcohol, beer, or distilled spirits. Any driver drinking within the recommended time will become out of service for the next 24 hours, and its violation has a fine of $2500 to $5000. Drunk driving has severe financial losses and fatalities; therefore, FMCSA has strict regulations for truck drivers.
We will discuss regulations from FMCSA and employer policies regarding the use of alcohol and the consequences of its violations.
Are truck drivers allowed to drink alcohol while off duty?
Yes, there is no specific restriction on truck drivers to drink beer or alcohol during off-duty hours and it should not conflict with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations.
They have clearly defined that you can drink 4 hours before going for duty. However, the extent of your drinking should be such that alcohol concentration in the blood should be below the recommended limit after 4 hours.
Moreover, these companies also have different criteria for drinking while hiring commercial vehicle drivers.
Therefore, they should also obey their instructions to save their jobs or avoid any penalty from the owners.
The safe period to drink is within 34 hours of rest for drivers, as their bodies will have sufficient time to remove its concentration from their blood to acceptable limits.
What are blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limits for truck drivers?
Truck drivers have strict limits for BAC from FMCSA compared to other passenger and general vehicle drivers.
According to FMCSA regulations, a commercial driver will be considered under the influence of alcohol if his BAC exceeds 0.04%. BAC of 0.04% means 0.04 gram of alcohol in 100 ml of blood.
This limit may not be fatal for individuals; however, it is sufficient to impair your driving. It also has other effects like loss of muscular coordination, mood disorders, and weak senses.
Moreover, there are no fixed limits for drink amount to ensure BAC is under the approved level.
Therefore, it is safe for all commercial drivers to not consume any drink a few hours before the start of their duty.
Its acceptable level for non-commercial drivers is 0.08%, almost double the limit for commercial drivers.
FMCSA Regulations for truck drivers related to drinking
There is a 49 CFR 392.5 regarding the prohibition of alcohol during driving for drivers. It forbids all drivers to consume alcohol or be under its influence within 4 hours before going to duty.
It is also valid for any driver with physical control of any vehicle besides driving it during its loading operation or any other activity that is part of the driver’s job.
It also forces these companies not to allow any truck driver to drive if his appearance, behavior, or other evidence shows that he is under the influence or has taken it within the last 4 hours.
49 CFR part 382 of FMCSA is about the definition of alcohol and other requirements for controlled substances and their use and testing programs by trucking companies for their drivers.
FMCSA has a BAC limit of 0.04% for commercial drivers to undergo disqualification on its violation. The same is also applicable to the eligibility of a driver for his driving license.
Trucking companies’ policies for drivers drinking
Trucking companies also have policies that can impose restrictions on drivers regarding drinking.
For example, few companies allow it during off-duty hours, while others have a complete ban.
Moreover, FMCSA also has regulation part 382 that binds them to conduct testing of new drivers and random testing to eliminate the risk.
Furthermore, it is the employer’s responsibility to train and guide the drivers.
The frequency of random testing, according to section 382.305, is 10% of the current number of drivers, with an equal probability of testing for all of them.
Moreover, employers can also ask drivers for a BAC test if any reasonable suspicion exists against them.
Testing should be done immediately after the driver returns from duty to ensure the authenticity of the results.
How long does it take for the human body to consume alcohol?
It depends on an individual’s age, weight, and physical condition and how quickly his body will process the alcohol.
Generally speaking, it can take 5-10 minutes for the signs of drinking. But it will take 60-120 minutes to absorb into the blood fully.
However, it can also vary according to the amount you consume and how much time.
Moreover, the human body absorbs these drinks quickly in the blood, but it takes almost double the time to remove or metabolize it. Therefore, it keeps adding to your BAC level as long as you keep drinking.
Therefore, be cautious to abstain from drinking as it can put you in an awkward situation, resulting in losing your license and job.
What are the consequences of driving while drunk?
Drinking severely affects their jobs, health, and credibility. If you drink within 4 hours before duty, according to FMCSA regulations, you cannot drive for the next 24 hours.
If you violate the out-of-service order, you have to pay a fine of $2500-$5000 for the driver and $2750-$25000 for the company.
Furthermore, if you get caught drunk for the first time while driving, it can result in the suspension of your driving license for 1 year, a fine, and jail time. In repetitive detection, you cannot drive for the next 10 years despite applying for a new license.
Moreover, no trucking company will hire you with a history of drunk driving. It also has adverse effects on your health, especially the liver resulting in diseases like fatty liver and cirrhosis.
It also has psychological effects like behavior changes, intolerance, and mood swings.
Suppose you have an accident while drunk driving; it can cause you to pay heavy fines and penalties for damages to other vehicles and properties.
In case of death during the accident, affectees can file a lawsuit against the drivers.
What is DUI/DWI?
DUI and DWI are 2 tests for truck drivers to detect their BAC levels. DUI is driving under the influence, and another term is DWI is driving while intoxicated.
Both terms are in use, and their meaning can vary from state to state. If BAC is above 0.04% during testing or you are under the influence of any other drug, they will charge you with DUI/DWI penalties.
Most of the time, police officers use breathalyzers to do the testing. However, your test can be positive for other reasons, including medicines.
In that case, they will refer you for further testing. DUI can result in fines, probation periods, and increased insurance costs.
Fines and penalties can vary from state to state.
Can drivers keep alcohol in the truck?
No, a truck driver cannot keep alcohol in the vehicle. FMCSA Rule 392.5 clearly states that any such possession is illegal and results in an out-of-service order for 24 hours before further charges.
Moreover, any wine having a specific percentage is also not allowed to carry in your vehicle.
No driver can also carry beer and distilled spirits during his duty. Exemptions are only for the drivers involved in the shipment of wine, beer, or distilled spirit business.
Statistics of drunk truck drivers while driving in the US
Drunk driving causes road accidents and fatalities taking place on the road across the US.
According to the latest reports from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), about 33% of the total road casualties are due to drunk driving.
The number of deaths can vary from 10,000 to 12,000 per annum according to the last 10 years’ data, which are rising yearly.
About half of these fatal crashes are a result of large trucks. Therefore, FMCSA has started a drug and alcohol testing program for all drivers to educate them and deter them from drinking while driving.
Government should invest more to teach and regulate drivers to prevent the loss of valuable lives and damages worth billions of dollars.
What are the risks associated with driving a truck while drunk?
Trucks are heavy vehicles with tons of weight and giant sizes. Therefore, they can cause catastrophic accidents resulting in severe losses compared to passenger vehicles.
Drunk driving results in loss of control, overspeeding, running zigzagged or off the road, and losing visibility of other automobiles and pedestrians.
It can result in severe injuries, including brain trauma, bone fractures, spinal cord damage, and many fatalities.
Moreover, Large containers and vehicles have applications for transporting hazardous materials and chemicals.
Therefore, a driver under the influence is at severe risk of chemical spillage and environmental exposure to harmful materials.
Therefore, you should be careful while doing your duties and avoid drinking well before driving vehicles.