Trucking and transportation companies strive to achieve two goals every day listed below:
1. Their main goal is to efficiently deliver goods from one point to another.
2. At the same time, they must ensure the public is kept safe in the process.
Both goals place a high level of liability on trucking companies for the conduct of their drivers. Therefore, they need to employ drivers who are healthy, well-trained, and reliable. A critical part of achieving this objective is having an effective drug screening program.
Drug screening programs test drivers before and during employment with trucking companies. These programs are essential to public safety. However, trucking companies routinely face challenges implementing screening programs. Among the top challenges of effective drug screening programs for trucking companies are:
- preventing drivers with a history of substance abuse problems from circumventing the pre-employment screening process
- mitigating the impact of drivers who fail drug and alcohol tests during employment
Drug Testing Commercial Drivers
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), oversees compliance with federal laws governing trucking companies. In 1991, the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act became law. The act, referred to as 49 CFR Part 40 by the FMCSA, requires transportation companies to perform drug and alcohol screenings on their commercial truck operators. Commercial truck operators are defined by the FMCSA as anyone operating a vehicle that requires a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). These regulations include all drivers employed at a trucking company, whether they are full-time, part-time, occasional, or substitute drivers.
However, sometimes drivers with substance abuse in their past try to thwart the screening process by omitting previous employers from their resume or application. Since there is no central repository for drug screening results, drivers can easily conceal their history by leaving gaps in their resume.
FMCSA has proposed the creation of a federal clearinghouse to maintain records of driver drug screening results. The rule is scheduled to be finalized for implementation by the FMCSA in September 2015.
In the meantime, engaging the services of a DOT-compliant employee background screening provider is an effective way to reduce the possibility that applicants with previous substance abuse issues evade identification.
What Happens When A Truck Driver Fails a Drug Test?
Another challenge trucking companies face in implementing effective drug screening programs is dealing with the consequences of drivers who fail drug and alcohol tests.
Trucking companies must obtain negative test results prior to employing a driver. Additionally, FMCSA regulations require testing:
- randomly during the year
- within 24 hours of a fatal accident
- when there is reasonable suspicion of driver impairment
While most drivers pass screenings, a significant number fail unannounced tests. In 2013, 13 percent of unannounced drug tests resulted in failures. 23 percent of unannounced alcohol tests in 2013 resulted in violations.
A test failure during employment requires trucking companies to immediately remove drivers from the road. Additionally, employees cannot drive again until they complete the FCMSA’s return to work process. This increases trucking companies operating costs as they must hire replacements or schedule substitutes. They must also contend with delayed shipments and unhappy customers.
Partnering with a qualified third party drug screening provider is an efficient method of surmounting these challenges. Implementing a robust pre-employment screening process substantially reduces the potential for hiring drivers with a history of drug and alcohol abuse. By doing so, trucking and transportation companies maintain regulatory compliance and keep the public safe while moving goods across the country.