Insider Exclusive: Top 4 Drug, Alcohol Violations and How to Avoid Them

Insider Exclusive: Top 4 Drug, Alcohol Violations and How to Avoid Them

By:Kathy Close

Every year, drug and alcohol testing violations are among the top most-cited violations discovered during motor carrier investigations.

In 2017, the most commonly cited U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) testing violations for passenger carriers included:

1.      Allowing a driver to perform a safety-sensitive function before receiving a DOT pre-employment drug test result.

2.      Failing to provide drivers with a written policy.

3.      Failing to ensure each driver has an equal chance at being selected for a random test.

4.      Failing to train supervisors as required.

This article will examine each of these violations—and how to avoid them.

1.      Allowing a driver to perform a safety-sensitive function before receiving a DOT pre-employment drug test result.
A motor carrier must have a driver’s verified, negative DOT pre-employment drug screen before the individual may operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) requiring a CDL for the first time.
If an employer only applies the pre-employment testing requirement to permanent, full-time drivers, it will be in violation. The pre-employment test must also be requested of:

  • Part-time, seasonal, and intermittent drivers
  • Contract drivers operating under the carrier’s DOT number
  • Existing employees transferring into safety-sensitive positions
  • Drivers returning after a leave of absence or layoff that exceeds 30 days

2.      Failing to provide drivers with a written policy.
Before CDL drivers are placed in a DOT testing program, the carrier is required to provide them with a copy of the company’s DOT drug and alcohol policy. The policy informs the drivers of expectations placed on them by the DOT and the employer.

The policy must communicate specific topics, including:

  •  Prohibited drug and alcohol behaviors
  •  Circumstances for testing
  • Testing procedures
  • Consequences of violations
  • A point of contact for follow-up questions
  • Information on drug or alcohol abuse, such as:
    •    Effects on an individual’s life and health
    •   Signs and symptoms of a problem
    •  Available means of intervention (e.g., confrontation, referral for treatment, or management)

The driver must sign a statement certifying that he or she has received a copy of these materials, which is kept for the duration of employment plus two years.

3.      Failing to ensure every driver has an equal chance at being selected for a random test.
Random testing is designed to keep drivers from engaging in prohibited behavior because they could, in theory, be tested any time a selection is made. As such, every time a random selection is made, the driver master must include everyone operating a CDL vehicle. A driver cannot be removed from the roster just because he or she was tested earlier in the year.

4.      Failing to train supervisors as required.
Driver supervisors must receive at least 60 minutes of training on alcohol misuse and an additional 60 minutes of training on drug use. Only a trained supervisor is permitted to request a reasonable suspicion test, based on his or her personal observations of a driver’s behaviors and/or physical signs of substance abuse.

More Than Fines
Compliance with the DOT testing rules is more than avoiding fines and penalties. A testing program is supposed to reduce the likelihood that a CMV is operated by someone who is impaired by drugs and/or alcohol. If any piece of a testing program is missing or incomplete, the risk increases.

Kathy Close is editor of transportation safety for J. J. Keller & Associates Inc., specializing in compliance with DOT drug and alcohol testing regulations. She can be reached at transporteditors@jjkeller.com.

About the American Bus Association

The American Bus Association (ABA) is the trade organization of the intercity bus industry, with more than 1,000 motorcoach and tour company members in the United States and Canada. Its members operate charter, tour, regular route, airport express, special operations and contract services. Another 2,800 members are travel and tourism organizations and suppliers of bus products and services who work in partnership with the North American motorcoach industry.

Contact

Melanie Hinton, Director of Communications & Media Relations, ABA
Office: (202) 218-7220
Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)