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DOT Drug and Alcohol Testing

The Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act of 1991 requires drug and alcohol testing of safety-sensitive transportation employees in aviation, trucking, railroads, mass transit, pipelines and other transportation industries. DOT publishes rules on who must conduct drug and alcohol tests, how to conduct those tests and what procedures to use when testing. These regulations cover all transportation employers, safety-sensitive transportation employees and service agents.

For purposes of discussion, the following basic information relates to regulations prescribed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The FMCSA regulations require drug and alcohol testing of commercial drivers (freight and passenger) who are required to have a commercial driver’s license (CDL). The rules set forth procedures for urine drug testing and breath alcohol testing. Examples of drivers and employers that may be subject to these rules include:

• Anyone who owns or leases commercial motor vehicles.
• Anyone who assigns drivers to operate commercial motor vehicles.
• For-hire motor carriers, including truck drivers and bus drivers.
• Private motor carriers.
• Civic organizations.
• Churches.
• River rafting companies.

The FMCSA requires drivers to be enrolled in a pool from which persons are randomly selected for drug and alcohol testing. It annually prescribes the testing rates to be used by companies or consortiums that make the random selections, and it requires these selections be made by use of a scientifically valid method, such as a computer-based random number generator.

In addition to this random testing, the FMCSA also requires testing in the following circumstances:

Pre-employment testing: Prior to the first time a driver performs safety-sensitive functions (driving), he/she must undergo a pre-employment drug test and achieve a negative test result.

Post-accident testing: Drivers of commercial vehicles involved in certain types of accidents must undergo a drug and a breath alcohol test within prescribed time limits.

Reasonable suspicion testing: When an employer has reasonable suspicion to believe that a driver has used drugs or alcohol in violation of federal regulations, the driver is required to submit to a drug and/or alcohol test. The employer’s determination must be based on specific, articulable observations concerning the appearance, behavior, speech or body odors of the driver.

Return-to-duty testing: Following a positive test or a refusal to test, a driver must undergo an assessment by a substance abuse professional (SAP). Before the driver can again operate a commercial vehicle for anyone, he/she must take (and pass) a return-to-duty drug test and meet any other requirements established by the SAP.

Follow-up testing: After a SAP assessment and the required negative return-to-duty test(s), drivers are required to take a minimum of six follow-up drug tests in the first 12 months after returning to duty. The SAP may require more than six follow-up tests if he/she deems it necessary, and the requirements may also include alcohol.

The FMCSA requires certified laboratories to test each urine specimen for the following five drugs or classes of drugs:

(a) Marijuana metabolites.
(b) Cocaine metabolites.
(c) Amphetamines
(d) Opiate metabolites
(e) Phencyclidine (PCP)

Under the federal regulations, all drug test results are sent by the laboratory to a medical review officer (MRO) who reviews and interprets the lab results and then certifies them before sending them to the employer. In the event of a positive test result from the laboratory, the MRO will contact the driver to find out if there is a medically valid reason for the result. This may include contact with the driver’s medical adviser (doctor).

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