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In most cases, when a traffic citation is issued it becomes necessary to test all CDL holders involved, even if they were not the recipient of the citation.

The reason the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires post-accident drug testing of drivers and others in safety-sensitive functions* is to promote safety on the roads. This helps prevent accidents that endanger drivers and passengers.

It is the responsibility for all holders of commercial drivers’ licenses (CDLs) to remain sober and safe in their operation of a commercial vehicle – at all times. In most cases, drivers are subject to mandatory random testing for drug use as an ongoing condition of their employment, and alcohol testing when a trained supervisor deems it necessary due to observed behaviors. 

But in the case of an actual accident it is mandatory for any and all drivers involved to submit to drug and alcohol tests, with some conditions:

  • Fatality involved in the accident, citation issued– If police identify fault in any driver, all drivers holding a CDL need to be tested.
  • Bodily injury involved, citation issued– Even if there is no fault determined at the scene, drug and alcohol tests need to be conducted on holders of CDLs.
  • Bodily injury involved, no citation issued– If no citation is issued to any drivers, no tests are required.
  • At least one vehicle disabled in the accident, citation issued– If one or more motor vehicles in the accident is believed to be at fault, all drivers holding a CDL are required to have a drug and alcohol test.
  • At least one vehicle disabled in the accident, no citation issued– If there is no fault suspected at the scene such that police issue no citations, no tests need be conducted.

Post-accident testing is very time sensitive.

According to the Legal Information Institute/Cornell Law School publication on post-accident testing, alcohol and drug tests need to be performed “as soon as practicable following an occurrence.” It goes on to state the responsibility is on employers to do the test (almost always through third party testing firms).

Note that citations might not be issued in the immediate aftermath. Employers are responsible for testing if a citation is issued within eight hours of the incident. However, if a citation is issued later, up to 32 hours post-accident, a drug test still needs to be performed.

The law also states that “a driver who is subject to post-accident testing shall remain readily available” for such testing. If not, they can be deemed as having refused to submit to the test. It is the responsibility of the employer to inform the driver in the immediate aftermath of the accident of his or her responsibilities: They re required to stay close and in contact should the need for a test arise in the 32-hour time period.

* Safety sensitive functions include more than times while driving a commercial vehicle on the public roadways. It also includes when the commercial drivers license holder is at a shipping depot, terminal, other property (private and public) when loading or unloading a vehicle, or when waiting for a dispatch. It also includes when performing a safety inspection of the vehicle per legal requirements, or while repairing, obtaining assistance, or remaining in attendance of a disabled vehicle.

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