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Nov 30 Written by 

Six Reasons When To Drug Test CDL Drivers

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Do you manage CDL drivers that operate a Commercial Motor Vehicle? If so, you need to know the six official reasons when to drug test your drivers. These will keep you in compliance with the Department of Transportation and help you maintain a drug-free workplace. 

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) under the Department of Transportation (DOT) have specific reasons when you should drug test CDL drivers. 

Here are the six reasons when to drug test CDL drivers to comply with the DOT-FMCSA 49 CFR Part 382:

  • Pre-employment
  • Post-accident
  • Random
  • Return-to-duty
  • Follow-up
  • Reasonable Suspicion/Cause

The following are the official DOT-FMCSA drug testing regulations interpreted in our own words. 

Pre-employment 

Your drivers need to pass a pre-employment drug test before they begin driving. In other words, each driver must have a negative pre-employment drug test on file. This is part of the driver’s qualification process. Pre-employment alcohol testing is optional. If you opt-in for pre-employment alcohol testing, do it consistently. This means, don't require a pre-employment alcohol test for one driver and not others. 

Post-accident 

The FMCSA post-accident drug testing requirements usually need a second look. They're a little complicated. The regulations separate the criteria between drug and alcohol testing. This is to distinguish between the post-accident time restrictions. For example, you can drug test up to 32 hours after an accident and alcohol test up to 8 hours after an accident. The time limits are in place for a reason. They are the average length of time that it takes for drugs and alcohol to exit a person’s system. So, it’s pointless to test beyond these time limits. 

Table for §382.303 Post Accident Testing
Type of accident involved Citation issued to the CMV driver Test must be performed
i. Human fatality

YES

NO

YES

YES

ii. Bodily injury with immediate medical treatment away from the scene

YES

NO

YES 

NO

iii. Disabling damage to any motor vehicle requiring tow away

YES

NO

YES 

NO

 

Random 

The minimum annual rate for random drug testing is 25%. The minimum annual rate for random alcohol testing is 10%. What does this mean? To clarify, the random rate is the percentage of your covered drivers that were randomly tested for the whole year. For example, let's say you have 100 drivers. If you randomly drug test 25 drivers in one year then your annual random drug testing rate is 25%. You would be in compliance.

The FMCSA may increase the random testing rates. The FMCSA sends a notice of the random rates before the program year starts. Complete these random tests between January 1st and December 31st. It's a best practice to spread random tests throughout the year. This prevents random tests from stacking up at the end of the year. Check ODAPC for the most up-to-date random drug testing rates.  

Return-to-duty 

A return-to-duty drug test takes place after a driver has received a violation. Drug and alcohol violations include refusing to take a drug test or receiving a positive test result. This takes place following the Substance Abuse Professional’s (SAP) evaluation, referral, and treatment. This is also part of the driver's return-to-duty process. The driver may return-to-duty upon completing a negative drug test. In the case of an alcohol test, a return-to-duty test below 0.02. Conduct all return-to-duty urine drug tests under direct observation.

Follow-up

Follow-up drug testing is the second part of the return-to-duty process. This also takes place after a driver has a violation. The SAP will make a follow-up testing plan based on the driver's assessment. Do not notify the driver of the SAPs follow-up plan. You also can’t substitute other tests for follow-up tests (such as random). Conduct all follow-up urine drug tests under direct observation.

Reasonable Suspicion or For Cause

You may have a reasonable cause to believe an employee is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Base the decision to test on a reasonable and articulable belief that the employee is using a prohibited drug. These observations must be specific, physical, behavioral, or performance indicators of probable drug use. It’s a good idea to use two trained supervisors to help make the decision. 

A well-trained CDL manager should have a good understanding of the six reasons when to drug and alcohol test drivers. Always notify drivers for testing as discreetly as possible with no advanced notice. This helps maintain the element of surprise and prevents them from “cheating”. Never forget the number one goal of the DOT workplace drug testing program: safety.

Have any questions about CDL drug testing? Comment below and we'll be glad to answer. 


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4157 Last modified on Monday, 05 March 2018
Hagen DeRouen

Co-founder & CEO at Screensoft. 5+ years experience with employment screening program management and guidance. Certifications including FCRA basic, MRO assistant, and professional collector trainer. 

3 comments

  • Thursday, 28 September 2017 14:31 posted by Brayden Brade Comment Link

    That's interesting that the minimum annual rate is 25% for drug testing. I just got my CDL so this is helpful to know. Thanks for the information.

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  • Sunday, 18 November 2018 16:53 posted by John Comment Link

    If the motor carrier ask me to submit to a reasonable suspicion drug test can I refuse when the supervisor asking can not articulate the reason for suspicion and did not make the observations that he only received a phone call to test six hours into a shift and said personally he sees no indication of impairment

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  • Sunday, 18 November 2018 17:10 posted by John Comment Link

    I refused a reasonable suspicion drug test and quit my job because I felt i was being harassed or discriminated against due to a past pending accusation,after another driver reported a smell coming from the truck “also what truck was not specified as rather the one i was driving at the time or one from two days prior being was my first shift back after being off two days” six hours into the shift the night shift supervisor recorded a call to find me and fallow me and make an excuse for me to return to the yard as he did do this we had multiple interactions and conversations outside the truck but nothing about suspicion i was allowed to drive the truck back after returning to the yard and feeling im being watched and harassed and becoming angry I confronted the supervisor about being watched and followed he then told me about receiving the call 4 hours earlier and i was to be tested for reasonable suspicion of drug use when i ask about specifics he could not answer stating he did not make the observations after i ask about his observations he started he sees no indication or reasonable suspension to test at all that its not up to him that it was already set in motion and i had to test feeling im a victim and being harassed I quit my job
    Will this follow me as a refusal what rights do i have far as my reputation
    Also the following day i was told the decision to test was due to another driver reporting a smell no direct observations of any kind

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