The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) was established within the Department of Transportation (DOT) on January 1, 2000, under the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999 (49 USC 113). Formerly a part of the Federal Highway Administration, FMCSA’s primary mission is to prevent commercial motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries. One critical element to accomplish this mission is drug and alcohol testing.
Employers and owner-operators that employ a driver(s) who hold a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) (or similar license issued by Mexico or Canada) and operate a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) in any state are subject to DOT (49 CFR Part 40) and FMCSA (49 CFR Part 382) drug and alcohol testing requirements.
A CMV is defined as a vehicle:
The drug testing requirements mandate that all CDL holders be tested for the following controlled substances in a DOT 5-panel lab-based urine test:
The alcohol testing requirements mandate that all CDL holders be tested for alcohol if performing safety-sensitive functions such as operating a commercial motor vehicle.
The specific testing requirements for drug and alcohol testing of CDL holders are as follows:
CDL holders must undergo a drug test before a motor carrier hires them. The employer must receive a ‘negative’ drug test before the employee can perform any safety-sensitive job function. Alcohol testing is optional.
Employers must conduct random drug and alcohol testing of CDL holders throughout the year. This unannounced testing is based on a random selection of drivers. The selection must be made by a scientifically valid method, and all drivers covered by this rule must have an equal chance of being tested. The names of drivers selected for testing must be kept confidential until the employer notifies the driver to take the test.
Random testing for drugs can be conducted at any time the driver is notified. Once the driver is notified, they must immediately proceed to the testing facility and undergo testing. Every driver’s name selected for testing must be returned to the selection pool so that all drivers have an equal chance of being selected at any time.
Random alcohol testing is also required by the DOT. However, random alcohol tests can only be administered just prior to a driver performing a safety-sensitive function, while performing a safety-sensitive function, or just after performing a safety-sensitive function. A driver who is selected and refuses to submit to a test must follow the requirements of 49 CFR Part 40, Subpart O.
The frequency of random testing for alcohol is at least 10% of the average number of CDL drivers employed by the motor carrier. The frequency of random testing for drugs is at least 50% of the average number of CDL drivers employed by the motor carrier. These rates are subject to change each year, depending on the positivity rates from previous years. You can find the current random testing rates here.
CDL holders must undergo drug and alcohol testing if they are involved in an accident that meets specific criteria such as a fatality, an injury requiring medical attention away from the scene, a vehicle being towed away from the scene, or a citation for a moving violation. The alcohol test must be conducted within 8 hours, and the drug test must be conducted within 32 hours of the accident.
Reasonable Suspicion Testing
CDL holders must undergo drug and alcohol testing if a trained supervisor/employer has reasonable suspicion that they may have used drugs or alcohol based on observed signs and symptoms.
CDL holders who have violated DOT drug and alcohol regulations must undergo a return-to-duty drug and alcohol test before they can resume safety-sensitive functions.
CDL holders who have violated DOT drug and alcohol regulations are subject to follow-up drug and alcohol testing for a period of time determined by a Substance Abuse Professional (SAP).
Additional screening requirements exist for employees operating CMVs, including compliance with the FMCSA’s Clearinghouse. The Clearinghouse is a secure online database that gives employers and other authorized users real-time information about commercial driver’s licenses (CDL) and commercial learner’s permit (CLP) holders’ drug and alcohol program violations.
It is important to note that these requirements apply to all CDL holders, including those who are self-employed or leased to a motor carrier. If you are unsure that your company must comply with DOT testing requirements, you can use this helpful tool provided by the DOT.
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