All That's Trucking

Does ADA Mean You Have to Let Alcoholics Drive Trucks?

April 16, 2015

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HDT file photo
HDT file photo

Does the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) really require motor carriers to allow alcoholics to drive trucks?

That's the question addressed in a recent article from the transportation attorneys at Smith Moore Leatherwood in Greenville, S.C.

There are several factors involved, they explain, including whether the driver has a "current clinical diagnosis of alcoholism" and whether you are making individualized determinations or have a blanket policy.

In one court decision, the court upheld the fleet's actions, because the Department of Transportation regulations mandate that a person is not qualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle if he has a "current clinical diagnosis of alcoholism." Therefore alcoholic truck drivers may not be considered qualified individuals with disabilities under ADA.

That seems to conflict with a separate decision issued around the same time, where the jury found in favor of EEOC and awarded a former driver $119,612 in back pay. The driver was fired after he self-reported alcohol abuse, based on the fleet's unwritten policy never to allow drivers who have self-reported alcohol abuse to return to a driving position. In that case, according to the EEOC press release, "the ADA requires that [the fleet] make an individualized determination as to whether the driver could return to driving and provide a reasonable accommodation of leave to its drivers for them to obtain treatment. To maintain a blanket policy that any driver who self-reports alcohol abuse could never return to driving—with no individualized assessment to determine if the driver could safely be returned to driving—violates the ADA."

The message from the EEOC, note the Smith Moore Leatherwood attorneys, is that a motor carrier must engage in an individualized assessment as to whether the driver had a current diagnosis of alcoholism and, if not, engage in a dialogue as to whether there were any necessary reasonable accommodations. 

In light of DOT regulations, they say, the industry probably has more defenses to disability claims under the ADA than do employers in other industries. Updated job descriptions and a good review of reasonable accommodations for disabilities will be your best defense.

Read the full article here.


  1. 1. Rich Johnson [ April 16, 2015 @ 06:17PM ]

    I which society would quit calling alcohol addiction a disease. Addiction is a choice. The ADA liberals need to look at the freedom model. With so called disease model treatment centered around AA and 12 step programs with a horendus success rate, why would a trucking company allow anyone to drive their vehicles and put the public at risk. Drinking is a choice not a DISEASE! Quit protecting the derilects in society . When is the last time you saw a bottle of booze jump into the hands of a drinker? Never they made a choice under free will to grab the bottle. There may be underlying reasons why they drink but they are not causes. They choose to do. We waste a ton of community resources on the disease model because it makes us feel good. Sure the alcohol can be physically addicting but it is a choice for short term satisfaction


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Deborah Lockridge

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All That's Trucking blog is just that – the editor's take on anything and everything related to trucking, with the help of guest posts from other HDT editors. Author Deborah Lockridge's career as an award-winning trucking journalist started in 1990.


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