Alcohol & Drug Testing - Management
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Alcohol & Drug Testing

CED Magazine, November 2006

Article Date: 11-01-2006
Copyright (C) 2006 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.

What you should know when starting or administering a testing program.

Over the last two decades, alcohol and drug abuse has become an increasingly significant problem in this country. In response,

federally mandated testing programs have become more prevalent.

            The Department of Transportation (DOT) first issued drug testing rules in 1988 and alcohol testing rules in 1994. (These regulations, found in Part 40 of Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), form the basis for the alcohol and drug testing programs utilized by the various DOT component agencies, including the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.)


Overview And Applicability

            In August 2001, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) revamped its alcohol and drug testing regulations to reflect changes made in 2000 to the DOT alcohol and drug testing rules. (FMCSA regulations are found in 49 CFR Part 382.) The stated purpose of the rules is “to establish programs designed to help prevent accidents and injuries resulting from the misuse of alcohol or use of controlled substances by drivers of commercial motor vehicles.”

            Under 49 CFR Sec. 382.103, employers are charged generally with duties related to administering a program (including training and policy development), while employees, not surprisingly, are the persons who must be tested. An employer who assumes the role of driver is subject to the requirements of both employer and employee.

            Not all employees are subject to testing, however. Basically, the rules apply when two general requirements are met: a person operates a commercial motor vehicle in commerce in any state and that person is subject to , Mexican or Canadian commercial driver’s license (CDL) requirements. In other words, if your employee is operating a commercial motor vehicle and must have a CDL to do so, he or she must be tested. Under 49 CFR Sec. 382.107, a vehicle is a commercial motor vehicle if it:

  • Has a gross combination weight rating of 26,001 or more pounds inclusive of a towed unit with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds
  • Has a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 or more pounds
  • Is designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver 
  • Is of any size and is used in the transportation of hazardous materials for the purposes of the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act.
    There are a few exceptions to the testing requirements. Specifically, an employee is exempt if he or she is subject to Federal Transit Administration alcohol and drug testing, serving in the military (subject to certain exceptions as outlined in 49 CFR Part 383) or exempted by state law. State exemptions usually include the transportation of certain farm equipment or the operation of government or emergency vehicles (e.g., ambulances, fire equipment, etc.).


Testing Procedures


FMCSA regs require testing breath tests for alcohol testing and drug testing using a urine sample. The alcohol and drug testing regulations involve several different categories of testing.

Employers must conduct a pre-employment test for controlled substances and receive a negative result before the employee performs "safety-sensitive" functions for the employer. The employer may make an exception if the person being hired has been tested recently under a FMCSA testing program (e.g., hiring a driver from another commercial carrier, where the driver has been in the other carrier's program) and has no record of a positive drug test within the previous six months. Pre-employment alcohol testing is not required.

Post-accident testing is required if an accident involves a loss of life. Drivers must also be tested after an accident if the driver is issued a moving violation, and either there is an injury requiring medical treatment or one of the vehicles involved in the accident is damaged and must be towed from the scene.

Random Tests

Reasonable suspicion testing is required for both alcohol and drugs if a trained supervisor or company official observes behavior that indicates possible alcohol or drug abuse. Employers must provide at least 60 minutes of training to supervisors on alcohol and drug misuse; no recurrent training is mandated.

Random alcohol and drug testing is also required. The percentage of employees who must be randomly tested is set by 49 CFR Sec. 382.305; however, the FMCSA administrator may, under certain circumstances, decrease or increase the rate based on the number of violations in the industry.

Random testing must be conducted during, just before or just after an employee performs a safety-sensitive function, defined in 49 CFR Sec. 382.107 as "all time from the time a driver begins to work or is required to be in readiness to work until the time he/she is relieved from work and all responsibility for performing work."

When an employee is waiting to be dispatched, loading or unloading a truck, or repairing a disabled vehicle, the employee is performing a safety-sensitive function, and a random test could occur during that activity.

If an employee has a verified positive test, he or she must be removed from safety-sensitive functions. The employee must then undergo evaluation by a substance abuse professional and receive a negative result on a return-to-duty test before performing a safety-sensitive function. The employee must also submit to unannounced follow-up tests.

Your Company's Policy

Under the FMCSA regulations, employers are required to develop an alcohol and drug policy and educate employees about that policy. A possible format is included in 49 CFR Sec. 382.601. Policies must:

  • Designate someone to answer employees questions
  • Explain the safety-sensitive functions employees will be performing so they know when they are subject to testing
  • Describe the procedures used to test for alcohol and drugs
  • Delineate the consequences for a refusal to test and/or a positive test
  • Provide information on the effects of alcohol and drug misuse on a person's health, work and personal life, including references on referring problems to management or employee assistance programs. The mandatory elements are somewhat vague, which allows each company to tailor its policy in accordance with the activities of employees and company philosophy on alcohol and drug misuse.
If your company has any alcohol and drug misuse policies not included in FMCSA regulations (e.g., you may choose to have a "one strike" employment policy, even though your company is not required to do so), you may include them in your policy under CFR Sec. 382.601.


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