The U.S. Department of Transportation has prioritized testing for illegal drug usage among drivers, in the same manner, they test for alcohol impairment following an accident. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is the branch of the DOT responsible for this task, and it has been conducting such testing for years.
The FMCSA has the authority to regulate the employers to conduct random drug testing on commercial motor vehicles drivers and impose penalties when the results show evidence of usage of illicit drugs. They also have the authority to conduct drug testing in case of an accident or incident.
However, this does not mean that drivers are being tested for drugs because they are involved in accidents. FMCSA will test drivers who have been involved in an accident because of drug impairment and not because they were pulled over by law enforcement or the police.
Furthermore, let's learn all about FMCSA Post Accident Drug Testing.
Table Of Contents:
- What Is FMCSA Mission?
- FMCSA Post-Accident Drug Testing Policy
- Circumstances An Employer Is Required To Conduct Drug Testing
- What Is FMCSA Post-Accident Drug And Alcohol Testing Time Frame?
- What Happens If A Driver Is Tested Positive In A Drug Test?
- How Does An Employer Notify The FMCSA On Drug Testing After A Reportable Incident?
- What Is The FMCSA Drug And Alcohol Clearinghouse?
What Is FMCSA Mission?
FMCSA has reported that the number of impaired driving-related crash fatalities in the United States has risen from 34,767 in 2005 to a record high of 38,841 in 2009. Drug use has been identified as a contributing factor in many accidents.
In 2009, 28% of crashes that killed or injured someone involved at least one driver who was under the influence of drugs combined with alcohol. Also, more than 20% of all fatal crashes in the U.S. occur within 24 hours of an individual using drugs or alcohol. In 2007, cannabis use by drivers was a contributing factor in about 12% of all fatal crashes.
However, the FMCSA's primary mission is to reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and buses. The FMCSA was established in 2000, and the agency's main task was to develop a national strategy to reduce crashes and injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks.
Unlike pilots, truck drivers are considered to be professional drivers, and in fact, they are the ones who must adhere to stricter standards. Truck drivers are trained extensively on how to handle their vehicles safely.
They must have a commercial driver's license (CDL), and they have much stricter training requirements than regular driver's licenses required. Indeed, the training is so stringent that the DOT even provides a list of drugs that truck drivers should avoid ignoring. Therefore, the FMCSA is strict in subjecting drivers to drug testing.
FMCSA Post-Accident Drug Testing Policy
The FMCSA post-accident drug testing policy is very strict. FMCSA tests drivers involved in accidents mainly because of the high correlation between drugs and crashes. Certain types of drugs can alter a person's motor coordination, perception, judgment, and reaction time, which are all essential for driving and operating vehicles safely.
The FMCSA requires the transportation employers to test all drivers involved in accidents regardless of whether they were pulled over by law enforcement or not. Moreover, as per the FMCSA, an employer's drug testing policy must include the following:
- After an accident, the driver must be available for a drug and alcohol test at the employer's designated facility. If this doesn't happen, the driver could lose their commercial driver's license. In addition, this might also be considered a refusal to test.
- The employer must provide the driver with the opportunity to have a representative present during specified stages of an accident investigation.
- The driver must provide a breath alcohol test, and due to this, the driver must not consume alcohol for a specified period before the test.
- For the drug and alcohol testing, the employer must provide a designated facility and trained personnel.
- The employer must use an alcohol-testing device that meets the DOT testing specifications or a state-approved alcohol-testing device for initial alcohol testing.
- And finally, the employer and driver must comply with any additional test procedures required by federal regulations.
Circumstances An Employer Is Required To Conduct Drug Testing
According to the FMCSA, the employer has to conduct drug and alcohol testing when it follows any of the following circumstances:
- The accident involves a human fatality.
- The accident involved an employee performing safety-sensitive functions.
- The accident involves an injury requiring hospitalization of any person, including the driver in charge of the CMV or any DOT-covered employee driving or occupying a privately owned vehicle while on official business.
- The driver receives a traffic citation for a moving violation that has been assigned to the "failed to maintain control" category.
- The employer has reasonable suspicion that the driver has violated a written company policy prohibiting the use of drugs and alcohol while driving a CMV.
What Is FMCSA Post-Accident Drug And Alcohol Testing Time Frame?
According to FMCSA, the employer must conduct drug and alcohol testing within 32 hours of on-site accident investigation. In addition, the employer must conduct alcohol testing within 2 hours of an accident.
The FMCSA also states that it is always advisable to have a follow-up drug test conducted on a day or two after the initial test by the DOT-approved drug testing facility. However, the FMCSA emphasizes that the employer should physically follow up with a urine sample either on the same day of the incident or the following business day.
The FMCSA has also outlined its expectations on how an employer should treat drivers who test positive for drugs and alcohol. The agency has made it clear that carriers need to ensure that employees are compliant with drug testing after an accident.
It means that carriers must monitor the employees' performance and ensure they are not negligent or inattentive towards their duties in any way. If a carrier does not follow up with violations, then it is possible to lose its license for negligence.
What Happens If A Driver Is Tested Positive In A Drug Test?
According to the FMCSA, an employer must suspend a driver who is positive on a breath alcohol test or positive for any illegal drug at the time of testing. The suspension goes on for five months to 12 months, depending on the type of drug or alcohol detected.
The suspension will be lifted after the driver completes a treatment program, has not violated its drug and alcohol policy, and has not been convicted of driving under the influence or any related offense in five years. Moreover, the reinstated driver must obtain a valid, return-to-duty test following the incident.
On the other hand, if an employee rejects to take the test at any time, they are considered guilty of a refusal. The employer must report this within 24 hours of the incident. Moreover, their license will be revoked immediately, and they might have to wait one year before reapplying for a commercial driver's license (CDL) in any state.
How Does An Employer Notify The FMCSA On Drug Testing After A Reportable Incident?
The employer must notify the FMCSA's National Compliance Management Division in writing within 30 days of conducting incident-related alcohol or drug test on a CDL holder. The notification must include the following information:
- Name of driver tested.
- If applicable, the name of the driver's employer (including parent companies) and the address and telephone number of the employer's principal place of business.
- Date and time of the incident.
- The location where the incident occurred.
- A brief description of the incident, including whether it resulted in injury or fatality.
- A brief description of the alcohol or drug test is given to the driver and its results.
What Is The FMCSA Drug And Alcohol Clearinghouse?
The FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse is a national database used by the federal government to store records of drivers who have failed or refused to take a drug test. Any employee who takes a test must consent for their result to be entered into the system.
The FMCSA keeps your company information confidential only if you alert them when an employee has violated your company policy on drugs or alcohol. It is important to understand that this system is not part of the FMCSA's drug and alcohol regulation. Still, it is a federal government service that has been put in place to assist companies in taking drug and alcohol test results.
The Clearinghouse can help prevent a company from hiring an employee who has had a drug and alcohol impairment in the past. In addition, it also provides a way to detect problems before they arise by keeping track of which employees had revoked commercial driver's licenses (CDL).
Finally, it allows companies to make better decisions about which of their employees should be placed on pre-employment drug and alcohol testing in their initial screening process.
As per the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), drug and alcohol testing for commercial truck drivers is necessary to ensure the safe driving of commercial vehicles.
In addition, it also serves as a deterrent to prevent drivers from using drugs and alcohol while operating cabs. The FMCSA has made it clear that employers cannot discriminate against a driver who tests positive on drug or alcohol testing.
However, the post-accident drug and alcohol testing time frame must be followed properly, and the test results must be confirmed. Lastly, for a driver to be reinstated as a commercial truck driver, they must pass a return-to-duty test showing that they are compliant with the DOT's drug and alcohol testing requirements.
How does the FMCSA justify its position on post-accident alcohol and drug testing?
The FMCSA justifies its position by explaining that a commercial vehicle accident significantly impacts the economy. It also has a major effect on public safety as many people die in accidents involving commercial vehicles.
According to the FMCSA, the accident costs a lot of money, but other factors contribute to this cost. For example, the legal fees involved in filing a case against a negligent driver on behalf of the victim can be astronomical. There is also the cost of covering medical bills.
In addition, crash-related costs such as fuel expenses, damage to property, and employee injuries are also high. In total, the FMCSA estimates that post-accident alcohol and drug testing programs can save up to 30 percent in accident-related costs.
Are drug and alcohol testing programs the only way to prevent crashes?
According to the FMCSA, there are other ways employers can prevent crashes. For instance, they can reduce the number of hours that drivers drive. It means that they won't go beyond 10 hours of work each day.
They can also ensure that they give their drivers proper rest and exercise breaks and provide them with a counseling program that helps them understand how to drive professionally to avoid accidents.
What happens if an employer fails to conduct drug and alcohol testing after an accident?
The FMCSA explains that an employer who fails to complete the drug and alcohol testing requirements after an accident might face a civil penalty from the FMCSA as well as possible criminal penalties. For example, an employer can be charged with criminal negligence for failing to report a crash that was caused by negligent driving behavior in addition to having its license revoked.
This criminal punishment can include jail time of up to two years, probation of up to five years, or even a fine that might reach $50,000. Moreover, an employer can be sued by a victim to prevent an accident or find out what happened in a crash. In addition, victims might also sue an employer for failure to provide reasonable accommodations after the accident.
Are there any situations where an employer can avoid conducting post-accident drug and alcohol testing?
The FMCSA has outlined the scenarios where an employer might avoid conducting post-accident drug and alcohol testing. These situations are listed below:
- The employer can avoid such testing if the driver wasn't at fault or was a victim of the accident alongside other victims.
- The employer might avoid testing if it can show that no drugs or alcohol were present in the driver's system at the time of the accident.
- The employer may not have to test if the driver wasn't involved in the accident and was tested within 0.04 percent blood alcohol level.
- In case of no fatality, the employer might not need to conduct testing if all parties involved in the accident submit to treatment.