If your transportation employees perform “safety-sensitive duties,” you may be subject to the requirements of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) drug and alcohol testing regulations. Here are six steps toward compliance:

1 — Know the regulations. Safety-sensitive duties include driving commercial vehicles and operating heavy equipment. The regulation for the industry classified as “motor carriers,” for example, is 49 CFR Part 382. It is governed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). In addition to this federal regulation, there may be state or local DOT agency regulations that require compliance as well. In order to find out if your industry needs to follow DOT regulations, visit the DOT website ( http:// www.dot.gov .

If you are covered, then you must establish a program that is effective in practice, and you must test employees for alcohol and drugs under specified guidelines.

2 — Have a written plan. Your organization must establish a written policy with clear procedures to follow that, at a minimum, equals the federal regulation. You may have your own internal alcohol and drug prevention program, but it must be distinct and separate from the federally-required DOT program. To add veracity to your overall program, you can have your policy endorsed by your company president, CEO, government executive, or municipal director.

The following alcohol and drug tests are indicated in the DOT rules: pre-employment; random; reasonable suspicion/cause; post-accident; return-to-duty; and follow-up.

3 — Appoint a DER. You must establish a “go to” person as administrator of your program. This person, in federal parlance, is the “designated employer representative” or DER.

The DER must be an employee of your organization and cannot be hired out. He or she is responsible for all aspects of the testing process and is expected to maintain confidentiality. All communications between outside agencies and providers must be handled through the DER, and all documents and files associated with the commercial drivers license (CDL) testing program must be secured from unauthorized access.

4 — Choose a provider. You should consider retaining a reliable third-party medical facility to administer your testing. This is usually a local medical center or clinic that specializes in occupational medicine. Some things to consider while making your choice are: location of testing sites; hours of operation; after-hours services; DOT-certified staff to conduct testing; turn-around time for analyzing lab samples; constraints by the provider on testing times.

The law also allows the employer to conduct testing internally. But you must have your own urine specimen collectors, screening test technicians, a medical review officer, and other technical and skilled personnel to properly run your in-house program. In either case, you must use an outside, accredited and certified lab to analyze your samples.

5 — Set up a third-party account. In order to alleviate concerns of tampering or bias during your selection process, it is best to hire a third-party service agent to make drug and alcohol test selections for you. One method is to establish a roster of personnel who are eligible (i.e. actively working in a safetysensitive position) for random selection and assign a number to each name.

When you are ready to make a selection, contact your service agent. They will either fax (remember to use a secured and confidential fax location) or send you a letter that contains a list of anonymous numbers. These are commonly obtained by using a computer program that randomly generates numbers.

You then match the number with the person on your roster to identify who is selected for that particular test period. The allowable testing period is for 30 days from the date of the selection. The minimum test requirement is once per quarter.

6 — Train your staff All employees who perform safety-sensitive functions must be trained on your organization’s DOT and other drug and alcohol prevention programs. By the end of the training, they must understand how each policy affects them and what kind of conduct is expected.

In addition, managers, supervisors, and other officials involved with the program are required to receive a minimum of two hours training on the following:
  • Indicators of probable alcohol use
  • Indicators of probable drug use
The training is designed to allow the supervisor to make a confident determination of reasonable suspicion and to act accordingly.