I had a question about the alcohol and drug screens for the DOT: is it mandatory for them to have the alcohol and drug screen test? it was a bit confusing.

Pilots, truck drivers, subway operators, ship captains, pipeline controllers, airline mechanics, locomotive engineers, and bus drivers are just some of the transportation workers that we depend upon to be as clearheaded and as alert as possible at all times. Use of illegal drugs and misuse of alcohol are not compatible with performing these vital functions. The history of DOT programs began with some fatal accidents that illegal drug use or alcohol misuse helped to cause. Congress passed a law – the Omnibus Transportation Employees Testing Act of 1991 – that requires DOT Agencies to test safety-sensitive transportation workers.
So yes, it is mandatory that motor carriers and commercial drivers participate in drug and alcohol screening program, HOWEVER, this is not part of commercial driver medical examination.  As a medical examiner, you are responsible for asking about drug and alcohol use during the interview process, and identifying drivers whom may be impaired due to drug or alcohol use, as in CFR391.41b12-13:

(12)(i) Does not use any drug or substance identified in 21 CFR 1308.11 Schedule I, an amphetamine, a narcotic, or other habit-forming drug.

(ii) Does not use any non-Schedule I drug or substance that is identified in the other Schedules in 21 part 1308 except when the use is prescribed by a licensed medical practitioner, as defined in § 382.107, who is familiar with the driver’s medical history and has advised the driver that the substance will not adversely affect the driver’s ability to safely operate a commercial motor vehicle.

(13) Has no current clinical diagnosis of alcoholism.

Who must be tested?

All drivers, including part-time, holding a commercial driver’s license (CDL) and operating CMVs (greater than 26,000 combined gross vehicle weight rating, or transporting more than 16 passengers, or placarded hazardous materials) on the public roadways must be U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) drug and alcohol tested. This means any driver required to possess a CDL, including:
o Drivers employed by Federal, State, and local government agencies. o Owner operators.
o Equivalently licensed drivers from foreign countries.
o For-hire motor carriers.
NOTE: Drivers who only operate CMVs on private property not open to the public do not require testing.

When is drug and/or alcohol testing required?

• Pre-employment:
o Drug testing is required; however, a driver may be exempted from testing if the driver was in a testing program within the last 30 days and tested within the last 6 months or in a program for the previous 12 months.
o Alcohol testing is not required; however, the employer may require alcohol testing before the driver can perform safety-sensitive functions. The employer may make the job offer contingent upon passing an alcohol test.

  • Post-accident drug and/or alcohol testing is required for all fatal crashes and when the driver is cited for a moving traffic violation.
  • Reasonable suspicion testing is conducted when a trained supervisor or company official observes behavior or appearance that is characteristic of drug and/or alcohol misuse.
  • Random drug and/or alcohol testing is conducted on a random, unannounced basis just before, during, or just after performance of safety-sensitive functions.
  • Return-to-duty and follow-up testing is conducted when an individual who has violated the prohibited drug and/or alcohol conduct standards returns to performing safety-sensitive duties.Employer responsibilities include:
  • Implementing and conducting drug and alcohol testing programs.
  • Providing a list of substance abuse professionals (SAPs).
  • Ensuring that the driver who is returning to a safety-sensitive position has complied with SAP recommendations.
  • Conducting follow-up testing to monitor that the driver is compliant with DOT alcohol conduct guidelines and abstaining from unauthorized drug use.

Here are the applicable regulations and guidance for motor carriers:

Office of Drug & Alcohol Policy Compliance

What Employers Need To Know About Drug & Alcohol Testing

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