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If you have a CDL, you face higher standards for alcohol use

As a truck driver, your commercial driver's license represents more than the ability to drive trucks; it also represents your livelihood. Any suspension or revocation of that license could easily mean unemployment and looking for a new vocation.

For this reason, it's imperative that you keep your driving record clean. You may get a ticket or two, or get into an accident, but that may not be enough to lose your license, even temporarily. One surefire way to jeopardize your CDL is by drinking and driving.

What constitutes a DUI for a truck driver?

Because you operate a large vehicle that can weigh as much as 40 tons and can't stop on a dime, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration holds you to a higher standard than non-commercial drivers. For this reason, when an officer pulls you over on suspicion of drunk driving, you must play by the FMCSA's rules, which include the following:

  • You cannot drink less than four hours before you get behind the wheel of your truck.
  • Your blood alcohol concentration cannot be above 0.04 since that is the legal limit set for you by the agency.
  • Non-commercial drivers can refuse to participate in roadside breath tests, but you should not. If you refuse to submit to a BAC test, you could lose your CDL for a year.
  • Even facing charges for drunk driving can result in the suspension of your CDL for at least 90 days.
  • If you are driving a commercial vehicle at the time, the suspension can last for a year.
  • As a repeat offender, you may lose your license completely. You may reapply for one, but only after 10 years.

You don't have to be in a commercial vehicle for these rules to apply. Your CDL dictates these rules, not the vehicle in which an officer pulls you over. This means that, even if an officer arrests you for DUI in your personal vehicle, your license is in jeopardy, since some companies refuse to hire a driver with a DUI on his or her record.

The best course of action would be to ensure you have no trace of alcohol in your system whenever you drive. Even one or two drinks could put you over the CDL legal limit. However, you are human. After an arrest, you need to begin working to minimize the effects of a DUI on your CDL license immediately.

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