Virginia lawmakers reject bills to test truckers for drugs, alcohol

| 2/14/2008

Commercial drivers are accustomed to being the object of heavy-handed law enforcement efforts. Two bills in the Virginia House that have died would have widened the scope of law enforcement officers’ authority in the state.

Shortly after their introduction, the House Transportation Committee voted to kill two bills that focused on how truck drivers are tested for alcohol and drugs in the state.

Despite the fact that the Virginia State Police already have a procedure for investigating truck wrecks, one bill would have mandated that truckers involved in wrecks be treated with “reasonable suspicion” that they were driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Sponsored by Delegate Danny Bowling, D-Oakwood, the bill – HB1221 – would have applied only to CDL holders involved in wrecks reported to law enforcement. The procedures for DUI testing and arrest would have applied.

Truckers and others in the state were against the proposed testing mandate. They said just because a commercial driver is involved in a wreck, it doesn’t justify mandatory testing of the driver. Without visible evidence to lead law enforcement officers to believe that drivers are operating under the influence, the testing is a form of harassment, they said.

Another bill authored by Bowling also died. The measure – HB1224 – would have required the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles to set up a program mandating that truck drivers submit to random and unannounced drug and alcohol tests. CDL holders also would have been responsible for picking up the tab for the program.

Bill supporters said the demise of the legislation can partly be attributed to the fact there were questions about whether the DMV would have the resources to handle the development of drug and alcohol testing. Concerns also were raised about whether the programs could be run smoothly, the Henrico Citizen reported.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Virginia in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor