Federal DOT frequently asked questions

by | Aug 31, 2020 | 0 comments

Do I need to have written policies that explain my program?


Yes. The DOT Agencies require employers covered under their regulations to have policies in place that fully explain their drug and alcohol program. Not only must you have policies, but you must also make them available to employees covered under your DOT program.



What is a DER and what does a DER do?


The Designated Employer Representative (DER) is your key employee for many drug and alcohol program functions. The DER must be a company employee. DERs cannot be contractors or service agents.


The only exception is when C/TPAs function as DERs for owner-operator truck drivers.


The DER gets test results from the Medical Review Officer (MRO) and Breath Alcohol Technician (BAT) and takes immediate action to remove employees from their safety-sensitive duties when they violate drug and alcohol testing rules, such as test positive or refuse a test.


A company may have more than one DER to ensure adequate coverage on all shifts and at all locations.



What are my options in administering my DOT drug and alcohol testing program?


There are three general ways in which you can run your DOT drug and alcohol testing program:


Option 1: Administer the program internally. You will have on your own staff urine specimen collectors and Screening Test Technicians (STTs) / BATs, MROs, and Substance Abuse Professionals (SAPs) and support staff to run the program. The testing laboratory would be the only part of your program outside your own organization.


Option 2: Outsource some of the program functions to service agents. For example, you will have your own MRO and SAP but contract with urine specimen collectors and STTs / BATs to perform the collections, while keeping a support staff to run the program.


Option 3: Outsource all the program’s functions to a vendor, called a consortium‖ or a third-party administrator‖ (C/TPA), with only a DER and the DER’s support staff, if any, remaining in-house.


Employee and Supervisor Education and Training



What educational materials do I need to give to my employees?


You must provide employees who perform DOT safety-sensitive functions materials that explain the DOT requirements. You must document that they received the materials. At the very least, you should include: The name and contact information of persons assigned to answer questions about the program as well as duties of the employees who are subject to the program.


Employee conduct that is prohibited by the regulations.

The requirement that employees must be tested for drugs and alcohol.

When and under what circumstances employees will be tested.

The testing procedures that will be used.

An explanation of what constitutes a refusal to test. An explanation of the consequences of refusing a test.

The consequences of violating the DOT rules.

Information on the effects of drugs and alcohol on a person’s health, work, and personal life.

The signs and symptoms of drug use and alcohol misuse.

The name and contact information of an individual or organization that can provide counseling and access to treatment programs.

There are also training requirements for supervisors and other officials about reasonable suspicion and reasonable cause testing:


Type of training

Indicators of probable drug use one (1) hour

Indicators of probable alcohol use one (1) hour

Duration documentation of training is required

Recurring training required? Recommended as Best Practice

Employers must follow other requirements that DOT Agencies have for employee and supervisor education and training.


For what drugs does DOT require me to test?


DOT urine specimens are analyzed for the following drugs or drug metabolites:


Marijuana metabolites / THC

Cocaine metabolites

Phencyclidine (PCP)

Amphetamines, Methamphetamine, and (MDMA)

Opioids metabolites [Codeine, Morphine, and Heroin]


What types of DOT tests must I conduct?


You must give employees the following kinds of tests, when called for by DOT Agency


Pre-employment – Drug Tests: You are required to: (1) Conduct a pre-employment drug test; and (2) receive from the MRO a negative test result on the pre-employment drug test for a person prior to hiring or prior to using that person in a safety-sensitive position for the first time. This requirement also applies when a current employee is transferring from a non-safety sensitive position to a safely-sensitive job for the first time.

Random – Tests are the key part of your program since they deter employees from using drugs and misusing alcohol. FMCSA requires a drug testing rate of 50% and an alcohol testing rate of 10%; an employer with 100 safety sensitive employees would have to ensure that 50 or more random drug tests and 10 or more random alcohol tests were conducted during the calendar year.

Reasonable Suspicion/Reasonable Cause – Employers are required to conduct a test for drugs or alcohol [or both] if a trained supervisor or trained company official believes or suspects an employee is under the influence of drugs or alcohol [or both]. The supervisor or company official must have been trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of drug and alcohol use. Testing cannot be required based solely on a guess, hunch or complaint from another person or phone-call tip. The suspicion must be based on specific observations by the supervisor or company official concerning the employee’s current appearance, behavior, speech, and smell that are usually associated with drug or alcohol use.

Post-Accident – You are required by the DOT Agencies to conduct drug and alcohol tests following qualifying accidents:

The following summarizes post-accident time-frames and specimens that must be collected:

DOT Agency Specimen Type Time Frame for Collection FMCSA, Urine for drug testing. Up to 32 hours from time of event. FMCSA, saliva or breath for alcohol screening; breath for alcohol confirmation testing. Within two (2) hours, but cannot exceed eight (8) hours from time of event.

The supervisor at the scene of the accident/event should know the testing criteria and make a good faith effort decision to test or not test based on the information available at the time. The supervisor may consult with others, but the supervisor is the person who has to make the decision.

If the testing cannot happen within the required time, the supervisor must document the reasons. Any employee required to be tested but needs medical assistance, must get the necessary medical assistance first.

Return-to-Duty – When an employee tests positive or refuses a test or violates other provisions of DOT Agency and USCG testing regulations, that employee cannot work again in DOT safety-sensitive positions until successfully completing the SAP return-to-duty requirements in Part 40. After successfully completing the SAP requirements, the employee may be eligible to return to work. However, before an employer can return the person to work in a safety-sensitive job, a SAP must determine that the employee successfully complied with the recommended treatment and education. The employee must then have a return-to-duty test and the test result must be negative.

Follow-up – The SAP will develop the employee’s follow-up testing plan – outlining for the employer the number and frequency of follow-up testing that will take place. You are then responsible for ensuring that the employee is tested according to the SAP’s follow-up plan. These tests can be for drugs or alcohol or both. The SAP must direct at least 6 follow-up tests in the first 12 months after the person returns safety-sensitive duties. However, the SAP can direct more tests and may extend them for up to five years.

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