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What is the Legal Alcohol Limit For Truck Drivers?

Higher Standards for Truck Drivers and Alcohol Use

As long as there have been motorized vehicles, truck drivers have been an integral part of our culture, bringing food and supplies across the country. The standards for truck drivers with commercial driver’s licenses (CDL) are higher than the average driver on the road. Below, we’ll explain the different standards between “normal” Class C drivers and commercial driver’s license holders.

Key Differences Between “Normal” Driver’s Licenses and CDLs

In an office-related job, the drug and alcohol policy could be as simple as “don’t show up under the influence”, or it could be heavily regulated, as it is with truck drivers.

Some key differences between a regular Class C driver’s license (for a standard 2-axle vehicle) and licensed truck driver with a CDL include:

  • FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) increased their random drug testing limits from 25% to 50% for employee testing annually
  • Alcohol testing at 10% annually
  • Department of Transportation (DOT) and FMCSA alcohol limit .04%
  • California’s legal alcohol limit is below .08% for operation of a non-commerical vehicle

Are Truck Drivers held to a higher standard?


Their alcohol testing limit is .04%, and they are drug tested for the following reasons:

  • Pre-employment
  • Random (percentages as mentioned above)
  • Post accident
  • Reasonable suspicion
  • Follow-up and return to duty testing

Employers are required to report ALL testing to a database called Clearinghouse. This allows for continued reporting and higher standards for truckers in the Department of Transportation. The Clearinghouse database shows real-time information about a driver and if they hold any violations within the drug and alcohol testing program.

Employers are also required to report any violations to Clearinghouse, such as refusal to test, positive tests, and reasons for testing.

Despite Random Alcohol Testing, Alcohol-Related Accidents Occur

Although businesses that employ truckers must comply with random alcohol testing, only a small sample of their truckers are typically tested. For example, the random testing limit is 10% annually for drivers in a company. This means that if you have a company with 120 drivers on your roster, only 12 are being tested annually. For compliance, this testing must be done quarterly to meet that yearly number. Every quarter, then, only 3 people are getting tested.

While truck drivers are held to higher standards due to their profession, about half admitted to drinking and driving. When a study was conducted, they found that roughly 12% were positive for alcohol.

On average, 4,696 fatal truck-related accidents occur every year. In California, 3,000 accidents every year result in injury. Approximately 3% of those fatal car crashes were alcohol-related.

Contact Our Legal Team if you were Involved in an Alcohol-related Truck Driving Case

We are prepared to work for you. Alcohol-related truck accidents can have devastating consequences to you or a family member. If you or someone you know has been involved in a truck crash, it is important to seek legal counsel to ensure that you are fairly compensated for your injuries.

At Caputo & Van Der Walde LLP, our experienced San Jose truck accident lawyers can help you navigate the complex legal process and protect your rights.