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Drug Testing Requirements for Professional Drivers

drug testing requirements for professional driversDON JERRELL
Associate Vice President

Drug testing is an issue for many employers, but the issue is a special concern for transportation firms and other organizations that employ professional drivers. If you’re the employer of commercial drivers with CDLs, those drivers need to be in a drug and alcohol program regulated by FMCSA. If your drivers are not CDL commercial drivers, then those drivers should not be in an FMCSA-regulated program.

So what does this mean? FMCSA alcohol and drug testing requirements for professional drivers are tied directly to the driver's requirement to have a CDL. Let's dig into the regs (Part 382, to be exact). Here's the definition of a commercial motor vehicle, which sets up who must be tested for drugs and alcohol:

Commercial motor vehicle means a motor vehicle or combination of motor vehicles used in commerce to transport passengers or property if the vehicle:

(1) Has a gross combination weight rating or gross combination weight of 11,794 kilograms or more (26,001 pounds or more), whichever is greater, inclusive of a towed unit(s) with a gross vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight of more than 4,536 kilograms (10,000 pounds), whichever is greater; or

(2) Has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight of 11,794 or more kilograms (26,001 or more pounds), whichever is greater; or

(3) Is designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver; or

(4) Is of any size and is used in the transportation of materials found to be hazardous for the purposes of the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act (49 U.S.C. 5103(b)) and which require the motor vehicle to be placarded under the Hazardous Materials Regulations (49 CFR part 172, subpart F).

If your driver is driving a commercial motor vehicle (per the above definition), he needs a CDL. And if he needs a CDL to operate your vehicle, then that driver must be in an alcohol and drug program that is regulated by FMCSA.

Now, if your driver isn't driving a commercial motor vehicle (that is, the vehicle doesn't meet the above definition), your driver doesn't need a CDL. Drivers that don't need a CDL cannot be enrolled in your FMCSA-regulated program. You may wonder why — it seems like enrolling all employees in the program would be good risk management against substance-abuse related incidents. Here’s one reason: The FMCSA-regulated test results feed a national data base that is used to determine testing rates. In short, the Feds don't want information in that database that's not applicable.

How does this affect you as an employer? You are protected under federal law when performing tests required by FMCSA, and you must follow all testing procedures to a T. For tests not controlled by the Department of Transportation (FMCSA's governing body), this is not the case. At HNI, we recommend you seek an attorney if you are considering non-DOT testing at your organization. An expert advisor can ensure proper execution of non-DOT substance testing.

This post kicks off a series in which we'll cover various aspects of FMCSA's alcohol and controlled substance testing. Topics for future posts include (but are not limited to):

  • Pre-employment testing
  • Random testing for alcohol and controlled substances
  • Post-accident testing
  • Reasonable suspicion testing
  • Return-to-duty testing
  • Drug and alcohol policy

There's one thing employers need to know before this series gets under way. You cannot let a driver perform any safety-sensitive functions until you have a negative pre-employment test result. For other testing, however, you can let a driver perform safety-sensitive functions until you get the results.

What questions would you like answered in this series about drug testing requirements for professional drivers? What parts of the regulations are hanging you up? What sort of real-to-life examples would be helpful? We aim to please! Please sound off below in comments!

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Photo by Micah Baldwin via Flickr

Topics: Transportation