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In the interest of public safety, the DOT mandates that owner-operators in the trucking industry enforce drug testing requirements for FMCSA-compliant fleets. Under the influence of drugs or alcohol, operating a vehicle or equipment can have fatal repercussions. As a result, the US Department of Transportation upholds rigorous standards for drug and alcohol testing of transportation workers. Before an employee can go to work after a positive test result, the employer must take several actions.

Why Does The FMCSA Have Drug Alcohol Testing Rules?

The purpose of mandatory drug and alcohol testing aims to ensure fleet compliance with FMCSA drug testing guidelines relating to the safe operation of commercial motor vehicles. 

To improve highway safety, the FMCSA launched the Commercial Driver’s License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse program in 2020. The FMCSA Clearinghouse is an online repository that gives employers, the FMCSA, state licensing authorities, and State law enforcement officers real-time information about CDL holders’ drug and alcohol violations. Employers and owner-operators will use it to assess and keep track of any CDL holders. Clearinghouse was established to stop drivers barred from driving from putting their own lives or the lives of other road users in peril. The Clearinghouse aims to prevent drivers from changing jobs after failing drug tests.

Over 56,000 truck driver drug and alcohol offenses were documented in 2020 by the FMCSA’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse databases. Most breaches occurred in the last two months of 2020; around 10,000 violations were registered in November and December.

FMCSA Drug Testing

Only 1,203 of these breaches involved drinking; most were for motorists whose blood alcohol content (BAC) was 0.04 or above; drugs accounted for the vast majority. However, most offenses involved drug usage, bringing attention to the concerning practice among truck drivers who use prescription or over-the-counter medications to stay awake and drive longer distances.

The Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act was passed by the US Congress in 1991 as a result of the awareness of the need for a drug- and alcohol-free transportation sector. It mandates the DOT Agencies undertake drug and alcohol testing of transportation workers whose positions are safety-sensitive. The DOT and FMCSA issued regulations requiring drug and alcohol testing of commercial motor vehicle (CMV) operators who must maintain a commercial driver’s license (CDL).

On January 6, 2020, the Clearinghouse mandated pre-employment testing and yearly driver checks for all interstate and intrastate motor carriers. It gives fleet managers visibility into potential hires’ history of infractions, guaranteeing that only the safest drivers join your fleet. All drivers must now undergo pre-employment and yearly driver checks using the Clearinghouse.

What Are The Owner-Operator’s Responsibilities?

Any Drug and alcohol program citations by current or potential CDL drivers are available on Clearinghouse. All employers are mandated to use a Clearinghouse. 

  • Every pre-employment driver background check should go through the Clearinghouse for verification.
  • Schedule a run for each driver on your fleet annually.
  • Employers should report any violations of your driver’s drug and alcohol program.
  • For each driver you hire with unresolved violations, note any unsuccessful return-to-duty (RTD) test results and the day the follow-up testing plan was finished.
  • Keep track of drivers who refused to take a test or may have been suspected of doing so.

Who Is Recommended To Be Tested By The DOT?

Anyone listed as a safety-sensitive employee under DOT standards is liable for DOT drug and alcohol testing. A person with a CDL operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) is considered safety-sensitive. A CMV is a vehicle that must be placarded for the transportation of hazardous goods, has a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more, is intended to carry 16 or more people (including the driver), or is any size. In the list of jobs considered safety-sensitive, you can see complete FMCSA regulations in ODAPC’s Employee Handbook for DOT Drug and Alcohol Testing.

What Rules Does The FMCSA Have Regarding Drug And Alcohol Testing?

Here are the most significant FMCSA and DOT agency guidelines regarding drug and alcohol testing that fleet managers need to be aware of.

  • Random Alcohol And Drug Testing

All CDL employers are required to adhere to a minimum yearly percentage rate for random testing under DOT regulation. The DOT set the random drug testing rate for motor carriers at 50% and the random alcohol testing rate at 10% as of January 1, 2020. 

This means that throughout the year, random drug tests for controlled substances should be conducted on 50% of the average number of driver positions in your fleet. Additionally, during the year, 10% must submit to random alcohol testing.

Every full-time CDL worker in a  company who handles duties that include safety needs to be added to a testing pool at random. The arbitrary rates are the necessary minimums for each year. 

An employer with hundred safety-sensitive employees must ensure at least fifty random drug tests and ten or more random alcohol tests were carried out during the calendar year to align with DOT Agency standards.

Random testing is considered a fair way of testing. Random testing assists businesses in identifying employees with substance abuse disorders, thereby preventing injuries, saving lives, and reducing the employer’s liability. 

How to Conduct Random Drug Testing Correctly?

Tests must be performed randomly before, during, or after a driver carries out safety-sensitive duties. The test driver is also chosen randomly from a pool of drivers. 

  1. The testing hours and dates are spaced throughout the year and are unannounced. Each test cycle’s testing should be done on a different day of the week to prevent drivers from matching their drug use patterns to the testing schedule. It is a good idea to have a plan for the drug testing program that allows testing every quarter, which is the minimum required by law.
  2. Fleet managers are required to choose candidates randomly and not arbitrarily per DOT standards. Every employee must be given an equal opportunity to be selected and tested. Tests are for both random alcohol and random controlled substances.
  3. Make sure to choose employees for testing using a valid scientific technique, which may involve a computer-based random number generator that can be linked to an individual employee.
  4. Once notified by the fleet manager, drivers are expected to report to the designated sample collection site and provide a urine or other required sample for testing per the company’s drug testing policy.

The FMCSA mandates that fleet managers enforce controlled drug and alcohol tests in a few other situations in addition to random alcohol and drug testing:

  • Pre-Employment

A pre-employment drug test will be performed before a driver is hired to undertake safety-sensitive tasks. Drivers are subject to the random selection procedure. Those returning from leaves of absence lasting more than 30 days but not engaging in the company’s drug and alcohol program must also take pre-employment tests. A negative result on a DOT urine drug test is necessary before performing safety-sensitive duties. 

The DOT prohibits using a “quick test” or any other methodology outside laboratory-based urine testing. Fleet managers can engage with the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse for pre-employment screening instead of contacting prior employers to inquire about drug or alcohol testing.

  • Post-Accident Testing 

After a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) accident, drivers involved will undergo both drug and alcohol testing. The company will conduct drug and alcohol tests on drivers involved in the accident. All drivers involved in fatal accidents (or non-fatal accidents involving traffic violations) require post-accident testing. Because of post-accident testing regulations, the FMCSA can track the annual total of CMV accidents involving Drug and Alcohol-related crashes. 

  • Return to Duty

The company will conduct a return-to-duty test before a driver returns to safety-sensitive duty following a DOT violation. When drivers have a DOT violation, they cannot work again in any DOT safety-sensitive function until they complete the Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) return-to-duty requirements. The driver’s updated test results will be retained on the Clearinghouse database once they have finished the return-to-duty procedure. 

  • Follow-up Testing

Suppose a driver’s return-to-duty drug and alcohol test yields a negative result. In that case, the company will conduct a series of tests after the driver resumes work that requires safety considerations. The SAP will decide the number and frequency of the follow-up tests, but they must include at least one of the following: at least six tests within the first 12 months of the driver’s return to duty. 

The follow-up plan will specify the number of tests and their frequency. Depending on the SAP’s advice, employees may be entitled to additional follow-up tests for up to 60 months after returning to work.

  • Reasonable Suspicion

A fleet manager monitors driving performance and conduct that may reasonably raise suspicions of drug or alcohol use or warrant testing. The company will conduct proper testing if a fleet manager believes or suspects a driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol [or both]. 

Testing cannot be mandated based only on an educated guess. It must be supported by specific observations of the employee’s appearance, demeanor, speech, and smell, all typically indicative of drug or alcohol use. The driver can only perform a safety-sensitive task once the drug test results are known. 

Drug And Alcohol Testing: Adherence To Law

Commitment, policies, training, and knowledge of local, state, and federal regulations are necessary to maintain a drug-free workplace and to ensure Fleet compliance with FMCSA drug testing requirements.

Drug And Alcohol Testing: Adherence To Law
Source: NDASA
  1. Drug and Alcohol Policy: Alcohol and drug usage among employees can be a costly problem for businesses and industries. It is advisable to have a thorough drug and alcohol policy and program administration that complies with DOT criteria for this reason. 

A drug-alcohol policy aims to provide a supportive workplace with standardized procedures to help employees with physical and mental wellness issues. It also establishes clear expectations for on-the-job behavior and possible repercussions for failing to uphold these goals. Otherwise, many potential productivity, financial, and legal issues might surface.

  1. Aligning Policy with Training: To adequately support the policies you want to build, you must ensure that any policy is supported with adequate training. Regular training is advised to promote the company’s best practices and notify staff of changes. By fostering an environment that takes advantage of work-related possibilities for early identification, intervention, and assistance regarding drug and alcohol usage, you can protect employees and lower risks.

Trainers must provide the drivers full disclosure about alcohol usage, the company’s policy, the screening requirements, and where and when to obtain treatment if needed. Consider giving managers additional training on managing and supporting remote workers and spot indicators of drug and alcohol abuse.

  1. Install Fleet Management Systems: A fleet management system regulates and analyzes various driver and fleet-related issues by telematics. A sound fleet management system is an excellent add-on to help with training and policy compliance. One of the best in the market, such as Matrack, is your best companion and uses integrated telematics to monitor and record driving behavior, such as speeding, severe acceleration and breaking, and more. 

Matrack is an all-inclusive solution that measures active hours, manages vehicle maintenance, and monitors driver behavior. You can rely on Matrack to enforce consistent compliance, SOS alerts, and vehicle tracking. Matrack’s AI-powered dashcam provides a complete remote view of the truck. It allows you to receive alerts when a car changes lanes without using its lane change indicator or when a collision is about to happen. 

This facility enables an additional level of safety by allowing the driver to take corrective action for distracted driving and driver weariness.

Matrack can help you to enforce your policies, including

  • Provide employees access to driving-based video incidents, enabling conversation and assisting in training and compliance.
  • Utilizing driver behavior reports allows for coaching, rewarding, and customized training and improvement programs.
  • Data that is always accessible via the cloud simplify operations.
  • Schedule automatic generation of all relevant reports, ensuring that employees and supervisors can regularly evaluate them.

Ensuring fleet compliance with FMCSA drug testing guidelines benefits your business and improves highway safety. Implementing a comprehensive fleet management system and its enhancements outweigh the disadvantages. Matrack enables everything from onsite audits to usage statistics to monitor and ensure compliance with federal motor carrier safety and commercial requirements. Contact our fleet experts today, and we can find a solution that works for you.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs )

  1. What is FMCSA drug testing, and why is it essential for fleet compliance?

Answer: All CDL holders are required to abide by the FMCSA and DOT’s guidelines regarding alcohol and drug testing, as mandated by 49 CFR Part 40. This includes transportation positions that require high safety standards such as CMV drivers, pilots, ship captains, and more. The US Department of Transportation has strict guidelines in place to test transportation personnel for drugs and alcohol due to the catastrophic consequences of the impaired operation. Compliance with these guidelines allows operators to check their CSA score and ensure the safety of themselves and others on the road.

  1. What are the FMCSA drug testing requirements for commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers?

Answer: FMCSA regulations mandate Pre-employment, Reasonable Suspicion, Random, Return-to-duty, Follow-up, and Post-Accident. CMV drivers are liable to random testing even when at home and off-duty. Drivers must show up at a testing place for a mandatory random drug or alcohol test after receiving notification from their employer about the requirement.

  1. How can fleet operators ensure compliance with FMCSA drug testing regulations?

Answer: Fleet Operators must run a thorough pre-employment drug and alcohol screening program and use the FMCSA’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse to comply. You must also enforce that all fleet supervisors complete the prescribed supervisor training.

  1. What are the consequences of non-compliance with FMCSA drug testing guidelines for fleet operators?

Answer: Failure to adhere to the FMCSA drug testing guidelines puts everyone on the road’s life in danger and attracts a hefty fine. According to the FMCSA’s Analysis and Information Online database, a carrier that received the maximum penalty for this infraction was $12,010—in April 2022, and the maximum penalty for Clearinghouse violations is currently $5,833.If the FMCSA determines that a carrier is unfit for operations, it may be shut down. The DOT also determines the fleet’s Compliance, Safety, and Accountability Scores (CSA) and holds fleet operators accountable.

  1. Are there any best practices or tips for maintaining FMCSA drug testing compliance in a fleet management program?

Answer: Some of the best practices to maintain FMCSA drug compliance are:

  • Implement a random testing program for driver safety and FMCSA drug testing compliance.
  • Add the employee’s name back to the pool after each test for an equal chance of selection.
  • Use third-party vendors for driver selection and sample collection to reduce conflicts.
  • Choose suppliers with good reputations for accurate documentation completion.
Posted in FMCSA

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