Commercial Drivers Drug and Alcohol Testing – Part 2

How do the regulations apply?

The regulations apply during any time that a driver is performing a safety function. Safety functions include a wide variety of tasks such as:

  • While waiting to be dispatched
  • During equipment inspection
  • Anytime at a vehicle’s controls
  • During a vehicle’s loading/unloading
  • During a vehicle’s repair


Compliance with the program involves testing for alcohol use as well as for use of marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, PCP and opiates. Drivers are required to tell their employers when they are using any therapeutic or prescription drugs. Testing must be performed prior to offering employment, within a certain time after an accident, and at random times. Driver testing can be ordered, but only if a trained person has a reasonable suspicion that the driver is affected by drugs or alcohol. Further, testing is required of employees who are returning to the job after they have been relieved of duty due to a previous, positive test.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) oversees an extensive testing and education program to help employers protect the public against drivers who use controlled substances and/or alcoholic beverages during their work.

Penalties For Failing A Drug Test–A driver who fails any alcohol or substance abuse test may face the following:

  • suspension from performing any "safety functions"
  • evaluation by a "substance abuse professional"
  • extensive documentation of test results
  • retesting of the suspended driver, with passing results (alcohol test with no more than .02 blood alcohol and a negative controlled substance test) before reinstatement.
  • Termination (not a regulation, but at the discretion of the employer)

Record Keeping Requirements–Employers must maintain complete records of their drug-testing results for at least five years. Further, an employer must keep a calendar year summary of their testing program that is subject to review by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

Training Required By The Regulations–Drivers must receive training in substance abuse avoidance and be given a manual on the company’s alcohol and substance abuse policy. Manuals must be acknowledged in writing and it must be kept on file. Supervisors – employees who are authorized to order testing based on reasonable suspicion of abuse must have two hours training.

Please see parts one and three of this article.