Most commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders are aware of the regulations and guidelines that come with their job. While it can be demanding and stressful, driving a commercial vehicle offers a wealth of opportunities for advancement. At the same time, the long hours and heavy workload can sometimes lead to bouts of anxiety. In these difficult times, some CDL holders may turn to medications like Xanax to manage their anxiety.
While Xanax and similar medications are prescribed, using them as a CDL holder may sometimes lead to serious consequences, like impaired driving and potential legal consequences. Ultimately, learning how to cope with anxiety and its triggers that come with the job is important for every CDL holder.
What Are the Requirements for Getting a CDL?
Driving a commercial vehicle is a highly specialized occupation, which requires a specialized license known as a commercial driver’s license (CDL). CDL drivers can operate a variety of different vehicles, but the most common are:
- Class A Tractor-Trailer – This is the largest and most common type of commercial vehicle requiring a CDL. It consists of a tractor unit and a semi-trailer, with a combined weight of over 26,000 pounds.
- Class B Straight Truck – This type of commercial vehicle includes delivery trucks, garbage trucks, and buses, among others. It has a single-unit cab and cargo area, with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of over 26,000 pounds.
- Passenger Vehicles – CDL drivers may also operate passenger vehicles, such as buses or vans, that transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver).
- Tanker Vehicles – Tanker trucks are used to transport liquids or gases, such as petroleum or chemicals. They require additional training and endorsements beyond the standard CDL.
- Hazmat Vehicles – CDL holders may also transport hazardous materials, such as explosives or flammable liquids, which require additional endorsements and specialized training.
Obviously, operating such vehicles requires much more training and licensure than a regular vehicle. To that end, if a driver wants to obtain and keep a CDL, they’ll have to meet the following requirements:
- Age – CDL applicants must be at least 18 years old to drive within their state or 21 years old to drive across state lines or transport hazardous materials.
- Medical Examination – Applicants must pass a medical examination to ensure they are physically capable of operating a commercial vehicle.
- Learner’s Permit – Before taking the CDL skills test, applicants must obtain a commercial learner’s permit (CLP) and hold it for a minimum of 14 days, depending on the state.
- Training – Applicants must complete a CDL training program or driver education course to learn the necessary knowledge and skills to operate a commercial vehicle.
- Knowledge and Skills Tests – Applicants must pass a series of knowledge and skills tests that include a written test, pre-trip vehicle inspection, and a driving test.
- Endorsements – Depending on the type of vehicle being operated and the cargo being transported, applicants may need additional endorsements, such as tanker or hazmat endorsements.
- Background Check – Applicants must undergo a background check and may be disqualified for certain offenses, such as drug or alcohol-related convictions.
Can a CDL Driver Take Xanax?
As one of the most commonly prescribed medications for anxiety, Xanax is a benzodiazepine that is used to treat symptoms of anxiety and panic disorders. While it has some benefits in reducing activity in the brain and producing a calming effect, it can be quite dangerous to use when operating any vehicle, as it can cause:
- Impaired coordination
That said, it is currently a Schedule IV controlled substance, which means that it has a lower possibility of abuse and addiction than Schedule III substances like codeine.
That said, even with a prescription, Xanax and similar medications contain substances that are not permitted to use, because it will affect your driving ability while on duty. Not only that, but there are a number of different scenarios in which CDL drivers are required to be drug tested according to these regulations. These scenarios include:
- Random testing
- Reasonable suspicion testing
The program requires CDL drivers to be tested for five specific controlled substances:
- Phencyclidine (PCP)
As a benzodiazepine, Xanax doesn’t fall under one of these five categories. Still, its use and its effects on you will likely result in disqualification under these regulations, especially if there is reasonable suspicion or you cause an accident while using them.
What Other Ways Can CDL Drivers Reduce Anxiety?
Just because it’s not advisable to use medication like Xanax doesn’t mean that you have to suffer uncontrolled anxiety while on the road. Being a commercial driver means dealing with a variety of factors that can contribute to feelings of anxiety and stress. Here are some other ways that CDL drivers can reduce anxiety:
- Practice deep breathing – Deep breathing exercises can help to calm the mind and reduce anxiety. Try taking slow, deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Keep repeating for a few minutes until you feel more relaxed.
- Stay hydrated – Drinking enough water throughout the day can help to reduce anxiety and improve mental clarity. Dehydration can make you feel tired and irritable, which can contribute to feelings of anxiety.
- Get regular exercise – Exercise is a great way to reduce anxiety and improve overall physical and mental health. Even a short walk or stretching session during a break can help to reduce stress.
- Listen to music – Listening to relaxing music or your favorite songs can help to distract your mind from anxious thoughts and reduce stress levels.
- Practice mindfulness – Mindfulness meditation can help to reduce anxiety and improve overall mental well-being. Try taking a few minutes each day to focus on your breath and observe your thoughts without judgment.
- Talk to someone – If you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious, talking to a friend, family member, or mental health professional can help. They can provide support, guidance, and advice to help you manage your anxiety.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to take an alternative approach to the anxiety and stress of being a CDL driver. While medications are effective, they can, unfortunately, lead to overuse, especially in a job as stressful as a truck driver. If you become reliant on the medication, it could have negative consequences not just for your job, but for your overall health.
Stay Compliant With Fleet Drug Testing
At Fleet Drug Testing, we know how important your CDL is to you and your family. In order to keep you on the road, you and your employer need to follow DOT regulations, which include staying compliant with drug testing requirements. With our team of experienced professionals in place, we offer a full-service range of products that are designed to keep you up-to-date and moving. Contact us today to get started.