Managing Drivers with Prescription Drugs

by Aug 3, 2021Idealease, News, Safety, Truck Driver Safety

Prescription Drugs and Commercial Motor Vehicle Operation Do Not Always Mix

Our society continues to be challenged with opioid overdoses.

As managers of commercial drivers, we need to be aware of the medications our drivers are taking as they may have a direct effect on their driving skills and operation of a CMV. Prescription medications have increased substantially in the last 50 years.

In 1950, on average each person had two prescriptions dispensed per year. In 1994, 7.9 was the average and in 2018 it increased to 17.6. It is also alarming to see that Hydrocodone, an opiate-based painkiller, was the largest single prescription dispensed in 2004 at 92.7 million prescriptions.

Incidentally, this is one of the five drug groups that are tested for in the FMCSA Controlled substance-testing program.

So, what can you do to guard against prescription drug use in your vehicles?

Communicate with the drivers and be aware of their physical condition. If you know that a driver has been injured on or off work, talk to the driver to see if medications have been prescribed.
In work related injuries, make sure the examining physician is aware that the employee operates a CMV as part or their entire job. Go to the examining physician’s office with your employee.
Contact your Medical Review Officer for your drug and alcohol-testing program for assistance in reviewing the prescription medication.
Develop a relationship with your medical care providers so they understand your employee’s job requirements.

Here is a partial list of legal drugs that can – in the right amount – impair your ability to drive.

  • Anti-anxiety medication
  • Amphetamines
  • Barbiturates
  • Stimulants
  • Narcotic pain medications
  • Allergy medicines
  • Blood sugar medicines
  • Antidepressants
  • Tranquilizers
  • Blood pressure medicines
  • Motion sickness medication
  • Ulcer medication
  • Antibiotics
  • Anti-seizure medicines
  • Paregoric
  • Anti-nausea medicine
  • Sedatives
  • Cough syrups
  • Alcohol-containing medicines
  • Caffeine-containing medicines
  • Decongestants

To avoid harming yourself or others, partner with your physician and pharmacist to learn information regarding your medication’s side effects, and what drugs are usually safe to combine-especially behind the wheel. Never take more than the prescribed dose, or take anyone else’s medicine. Ask for non-sedating forms of your prescriptions if you are a professional driver. Allow your body time to adjust to new medications before you drive. Most importantly, each of us is responsible for knowing the signs and symptoms of being drug impaired before we get behind the wheel of any vehicle.

Click here for more information, including side effects of any drug. 

Please see the following FAQs from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA):
What medications disqualify a CMV driver?
Can a CMV driver be disqualified for using a legally prescribed drug?
Access 21 CFR 1308.11 (Controlled Substance Schedule I) 

For further assistance, please contact the FMCSA’s Physical Qualifications Division at or (202) 366-4001.

[Article originally posted here]

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