Truck and bus drivers in Pennsylvania and around the country are held to higher standards than passenger vehicle drivers. This is because the vehicles they operate are large, heavy and cumbersome and would pose a serious threat to other road users if operated recklessly. The Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act, which was passed by Congress in 1999, put special rules in place for commercial driver’s license holders that are enforced by states and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Mandatory license suspensions
These rules include a mandatory 12-month license suspension for commercial driver’s license holders convicted of DUI for the first time and a lifetime ban if they are convicted a second time. Truck and bus drivers also lose their driving privileges for a year if they refuse to submit to toxicology tests.
Lower BAC limits
The legal limit is also much lower for individuals with commercial driver’s licenses. Most drivers in Pennsylvania are only charged with drunk driving when they get behind the wheel with blood alcohol concentrations of .08% or higher. Truck drivers are charged with DUI if they have BACs of .04% or higher, and school bus drivers are arrested for drunk driving if toxicology tests reveal their BACs to be .02% or higher. Commercial driver’s license holders should also be aware that these lower thresholds are based on the type of license a person has and not the vehicle they are driving at the time of their arrest. This means that truck drivers with a BAC of .05% will be charged with DUI even they are driving their personal vehicle when they are pulled over.
Drunk driving defense
Truck and bus drivers who lose their licenses are unable to earn a living and may find it extremely difficult to secure a job when their driving privileges are restored. These are the kind of points that experienced criminal defense attorneys may make in these cases when they urge prosecutors to consider taking a more lenient position. Attorneys could also challenge the BAC evidence supporting a drunk driving charge as breath tests are often unreliable.