Types Of Drug And Alcohol Testing

The regulations that are set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) make it a requirement for you to implement various types of testing for drugs and alcohol. These include pre employment tests (for drugs only), reasonable suspicion tests, post accident tests, random tests, return to duty tests, and follow up tests. Each of these types of tests are covered in great detail during the dot supervisor training online course.

Pre employment tests

Anyone applying for a job, whether that be temporary or permanent, as a commercial motor vehicle driver must undergo a pre employment drug test. Before doing this though, the individual must be made aware of what is required from them. The idea behind doing this testing is to put users of illicit drugs off of applying for a driver position in the first place, and if they do, to identify them during the application process. No one should be allowed to become a commercial motor vehicle driver if they do not have a verified negative test result. You must perform a pre employment test each and every time that a worker returns after a period of being laid off in those instances where the driver has not been subject to random drug tests within the past 30 days. When a driver requests the results of their pre employment drug test, they must be provided to them in no more than 60 days of receiving the request.

It is important that you know that there are exemptions to this rule. For instance, you might not perform a pre employment drug test if the commercial motor vehicle driver has already completed the same test in another job role within the last 30 days. This is also true if they were subject to a random drug test in the last 12 months. An exemption may also occur where it has been verified that the worker has no prior violations in relation to the misuse of illicit drugs by another United States Department of Transport agency in the last 6 months. Where a driver is exempt from undergoing a pre employment test, enough information needs to be obtained and documented to show this. 

This information includes things like the results of drug tests that have been taken in the last 6 months, their personal details (e.g. name, address etc.), that they have not previously refused tests.

Reasonable suspicion tests

It is a requirement of the FMCSA that a driver is tested if an appropriately trained supervisor possesses reasonable suspicion that the worker has been using illicit drugs and / or alcohol as per the definition set out by the FMCSA. Making a request of a driver to partake in a reasonable suspicion test needs to be based on made observations that are articulable, contemporaneous, and specific, and relate to their body odor, speech, and / or behavior. The observations made by the supervisor might include things like indications of the side effects of the withdrawal of illicit drugs and / or alcohol. However, these signs may not be the only indication and they might actually be used in conjunction with other signs and symptoms. This type of test is used in order to identify those commercial motor vehicle drivers that likely pose a danger to either themselves or others as a result of the improper use of alcohol and / or illicit drugs.

Whilst it is only legally necessary that one trained supervisor observes the behavior of the commercial motor vehicle driver in question, it is good practice to have more than one senior member of staff present while observations are being made. Unless they are trained to do so, these same individuals are not allowed to perform the reasonable suspicion test on the worker. A reasonable suspicion test must take place within two hours of the observations being made. If this rule is not adhered to, then it must be documented why this did not happen. However, the test must be done within 8 hours in order to prevent the driver from being put out of service for the next 24 hours. 

If the reasonable suspicion test comes back as positive, then the worker will not be allowed to perform their safety sensitive job until more than 24 hours after receiving their results. Under FMCSA regulations, you are not allowed to take any other action that is based solely on their appearance and behavior. However, it may be the case that you have your own additional policies relating to illicit drug and alcohol use and this is the time when these should be implemented. It may be the case that the commercial motor vehicle driver is removed from the workplace, relieved of their duties, and have their contract permanently terminated. However, it may also be the case that they are eventually allowed to return to work. 

Post accident tests

In certain instances, such as a workplace accident, the FMCSA requires a test to be done. The administration defines an accident as being an incident that involves the driver of a commercial motor vehicle on a public road which ends up with a death; someone being so badly injured that they require immediate medical treatment at the scene of the incident; or a vehicle is severely damaged to the point that it needs to be towed away by a recovery vehicle. It is important to be aware that there is a big difference between a reasonable suspicion test and this type of test. For instance, a reasonable suspicion test requires the observation of certain behaviors etc. in order for a test to be administered. A post accident test, however, is mandatory in the event of an incident. Commercial motor vehicle drivers subject to this type of test include those who are performing safety sensitive roles and find themselves involved in an incident that results in the death of someone else; or are involved in an incident that is not fatal but receive a citation under either local or federal law.