As a truck driver, you have to be aware of numerous rules and regulations to stay licensed–and safe. With more and more states moving to legalize marijuana for medical or recreational use, there is a growing question about whether or not truck drivers can use marijuana and still keep their commercial driver’s license (CDL).
Although some states have legalized marijuana, the Department of Transportation (DOT) still considers it a controlled substance and regulates the commercial transportation industry. The question for many truck drivers is whether they are allowed to have marijuana in their system if their state has legalized marijuana. The answer to this question largely depends on the context, but drivers need to be aware of the potential liability of driving under the influence of the drug.
Marijuana’s Effects on Drivers
The effects of marijuana on a person’s ability to drive any vehicle safely has been widely researched and studied in recent years, especially as many states have moved to legalize it. According to National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) research, nearly two-thirds of drivers involved in an accident that resulted in serious injuries or fatalities tested positive for at least one drug, including marijuana.
As this research illustrates, the primary psychoactive compound in marijuana, Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), can affect a driver’s:
- Reaction time
More to the point, these effects can last for several hours, and individuals who have used it may still be impaired even after the initial high has worn off. This is because THC can stay in a person’s system for a few days to several weeks, depending on how often and how much they use it. Therefore, someone who regularly uses marijuana may have THC in their system even when they are not currently feeling its effects.
DOT Drug Testing Regulations
Under federal law, the Department of Transportation (DOT) requires that all “safety-sensitive” employees be drug tested at various intervals during their employment. Truck drivers must submit to this testing to keep their licenses. The DOT panel test is done via a urine sample and includes marijuana, as well as cocaine, opiates, amphetamines, and PCP. These tests occur at the following points for a truck driver:
- Pre-employment testing – Prospective truck drivers must pass a drug and alcohol test before they can be hired for the position. If the test results are positive, the employee cannot be hired.
- Random testing – Truck drivers are subject to unannounced drug and alcohol testing at any time. The DOT mandates that employers use a computer-based random selection process to choose employees for testing.
- Reasonable suspicion testing – Employers can require a driver to undergo drug and alcohol testing if they have reasonable suspicion that the employee is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Post-accident testing – If a driver is involved in a work-related accident or incident that results in a fatality, serious injury, or damage to property, they must undergo drug and alcohol testing.
- Return-to-duty testing – If a driver tests positive for drugs or alcohol, they must complete a substance abuse treatment program and pass a return-to-duty drug and alcohol test before they can return to safety-sensitive duties.
- Follow-up testing – After returning to safety-sensitive duties, drivers who tested positive for drugs or alcohol must undergo follow-up testing.
Understanding and complying with these regulations is crucial for commercial truck drivers to ensure their own safety and the safety of others on the road and comply with the DOT’s requirements for drug testing. Any marijuana use by a truck driver would show up on a test and a positive result. This, in turn, would result in disciplinary action for the truck driver, up to and including being fired. With that in mind, drivers should know how to approach marijuana use and a DOT drug test.
How Should Commercial Truck Drivers Approach Marijuana and DOT Drug Testing?
While marijuana may be legal in some states, it is still illegal under federal law. Thus, any use of it by a truck driver–who is subject to DOT regulations and federal laws–could result in legal penalties on top of losing their job. The easiest way to avoid the risk of testing positive for marijuana would be not to use it at all. Even if a driver uses marijuana in a state where it is legal, drivers can face the following if caught using marijuana:
- Loss of their commercial driver’s license
- Being suspended or fired from their job
- Criminal charges or fines
- Harm to their reputation, which could make it harder to get another truck driving job
In addition, anytime a commercial truck driver tests positive for marijuana or any other drug, they will need to complete a substance abuse treatment program and pass a return-to-duty drug and alcohol test before they can return to safety-sensitive duties per DOT regulation. In addition, they’ll need to complete follow-up testing if they’re allowed to return to their position to ensure ongoing compliance with DOT drug testing regulations.
Overall, the potential consequences of using marijuana as a truck driver would seem to outweigh any benefits. Although it may be perfectly legal where you live, the effect it can have on your professional career as a truck driver makes using it very risky. In order to maintain compliance with DOT regulations, you should refrain from using marijuana or any of the other drugs that testing covers.
Fleet Drug Testing Can Help You Comply With DOT Drug Testing
Being a truck driver comes with a lot of responsibility, not just to you and your company but to everyone else you share the road with. Thus, you have a duty to follow federal regulations and laws, and not drive under the influence of marijuana or any other drug. At Fleet Drug Testing, we can make sure you have what you need to stay on top of DOT regulations. We offer reliable drug testing services that can help you stay compliant and keep yourself and others safe on the road. Contact us today to learn more about our drug testing services and take the first step towards a safer, more responsible driving career.