In a DOT drug testing program, the end of each quarter is a hectic time. This is because most of our DOT clients are regulated by the FMCSA. The FMCSA requires that each individual selected for random testing be tested in the period in which s/he is selected. At InOut Labs, we perform DOT drug and alcohol tests for employers who are required to test by the U. S. Department of Transportation. This article discusses refusals to test and why the employer should report these refusals.
The FMCSA Regulates DOT Testing
The FMCSA regulates most of our DOT clients, requiring that every covered employee undergo random testing when selected. FMCSA requires that 50% of all drivers receive a random drug test every year, and 10% receive a random breath alcohol test. In order to meet these compliance requirements, smaller employers and owner operators are selected from a consortium, which is a pool of drivers from different companies. As long as the consortium meets the 50%/10%, then all of its members are compliant.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration was established within the U.S DOT in 2000, resulting from the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999. Formerly a part of the Federal Highway Administration, the FMCSA’s primary mission is highway safety as it pertains to commercial motor vehicles.
The FMCSA requires drug and alcohol testing to reduce injuries and crashes involving buses, large trucks and other commercial vehicles. FMCSA headquarters is in Washington DC, and employs more than 1,000 individuals from all states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia.
In addition to drug and alcohol testing the FMCSA also oversees commercial drivers’ licenses, analysis and data, regulatory enforcement and compliance, technology, research, safety assistance, and more. The institution exists to make the streets safe and strives to make sure that commercial drivers don’t put themselves or others at risk.
How Often Do Random Selections and Testing Take Place?
Random testing is effective because there’s the surprise element. Random selections are normally performed monthly or quarterly and employees are sent for testing without advance notice. Some employers select and test more frequently than others, this often depends on the size of the company and the number of employees.
Employers should have procedures in place for employees not to receive selection notices in advance. When an employee receives a notification, s/he needs to proceed to the collection site immediately. However, immediately shouldn’t be in two hours. The employee’s actions should lead to the immediate collection of the specimen.
Why? Alcohol leaves the system in a matter of hours. Most drugs are not detectable in urine after 2 or 3 days. If employees are given an opportunity to prepare, then the deterrence factor is nullified.
Who is Tested Under DOT Regulations?
Under FMCSA regulations (49 CFR Part 382), drivers with Commercial Drivers Licenses who operate vehicles rated for 26,001 lbs or more, are capable of transporting 16 passengers or more, including the driver, or are required to be placarded for hazardous materials, are all required to be tested. Drug and alcohol tests are collected by trained collectors, tested in SAHMHA-certified laboratories, and the results confirmed by an MRO.In each selection period, each employee has an equal chance to be selected..
What Happens If Selected Employees are Not Available for Testing?
Employees selected to get tested might not be available during selection for reasons such as long-term illness, legitimate extended absence, and so on. In these situations, the employer must document why the test could not be completed, and select an alternate.
Things We Hear From Employers
“He no longer works here. I told him to go test, and he quit. Please send an alternate.”
This is a Refusal To Test, and must be reported by the employer to the FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse. A Refusal To Test is treated the same as a positive drug or alcohol test.
“I keep telling him to go, but he is really busy. Said he can go on Monday.”
When a driver is told to test, s/he must go immediately. Being “busy” can be an excuse to delay testing until drugs or alcohol have left an individual’s system. Not going when told to go is a Refusal To Test and must be reported to the FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse by the employer. “How long do drugs stay in your system?” is one of the most searched phrases related to substance abuse.
Common Refusals by Employees Asked to Test
Employees refuse to test more often than one might expect. Refusing a DOT drug test is the same as failing the test. In addition, according to DOT regulations, the employer should immediately remove the employee from safety-sensitive duties.
The final decision determining a refusal to test is often up to the employer. Refusals can take many forms:
- Donor does not report to the collection test site
- Donor takes too long to report to the collection site
- Donor does not provide a urine sample
- Donor declines or fails to take additional drug tests required by the collector, the employer or the MRO
- Donor does not cooperate with the alcohol or collection testing process
- Donor can’t provide enough breath or saliva and cannot provide a medical explanation
The MRO must report refusals, but there are also situations when the employer reports refusals. It all depends on the reason for the refusal.
What Refusals Should the Employer Report?
The refusals employers should report are:
- Failing to undergo a medical examination required by the MRO
- Admitting to the MRO about adulterated or specimen substitutes
- Failing to provide enough urine without any medical explanation
If some employees refuse to get tested, you should report them to the FMCSA Clearinghouse. You need to have documentation for refusal. Know that being diligent about refusals helps keep the workplace environment and everyone else involved safe.