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Drug and alcohol testing: Are you in compliance?

Donna Ryun
OOIDA Information Services

Interstate and intrastate motor carriers have been required to have a drug and alcohol testing program that conforms to Department of Transportation regulations since the beginning of 1996, but some small-business truckers and hired drivers still have problems wading through these confusing rules.

Here are a few of the questions that I have received from both employee drivers and owner-operators. Perhaps the answers will help to clarify for readers who have concerns about whether they are operating in compliance with the DOT regulations.

Q: I am an owner-operator with my own authority. I do not employ a hired driver, because I drive my own truck. Do I still have to have an alcohol and drug-testing program?

A: Yes, you do. You are considered an employer who employs himself/herself; therefore, you are required to enter your name in a random selection pool, and you must comply with the employer requirements of the regulations as well. Here's the exact wording from the FMCSA rules:

§382.103 Applicability.

   (b) An employer who employs himself/herself as a driver must comply with both the requirements in this part that apply to employers and the requirements in this part that apply to drivers. An employer who employs only himself/herself as a driver shall implement a random alcohol and controlled substances testing program of two or more covered employees in the random testing selection pool.

Q: Is it legal for a company to pull my name for a random drug and alcohol test and then make me pay for it?

A: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, or FMCSRs, do not address the issue of payment. They leave that up to the parties involved to decide. However, the regulations do make it clear that the employer is responsible for ensuring compliance with the rules, no matter who pays for the testing.
If you are a leased owner-operator, your lease should specify which party is responsible for payment, particularly if they make a charge-back to your settlement for the fee.

Q: I work for two different companies, so does this mean that I'm in both employers' random testing programs?

A: Yes, you must be in both employers' random testing selection pools according to DOT regulations.

Q: Can a driver have alcohol in the truck if the driver is not driving?

A:  Most drivers know that they can't use alcohol within four hours of going on duty or while actually on duty; however, some are surprised to find that drivers are also prohibited from carrying alcohol (as defined in regulations) in their trucks while being on duty. Here is the regulation:

§392.5 Alcohol prohibition.

   (a) No driver shall-   (a)(1) Use alcohol, as defined in §382.107 of this subchapter, or be under the influence of alcohol, within 4 hours before going on duty or operating, or having physical control of, a commercial motor vehicle; or(a)(2) Use alcohol, be under the influence of alcohol, or have any measured alcohol concentration or detected presence of alcohol, while on duty, or operating, or in physical control of a commercial motor vehicle; or(a)(3) Be on duty or operate a commercial motor vehicle while the driver possesses wine of not less than one-half of one per centum of alcohol by volume, beer as defined in 26 U.S.C. 5052(a), of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954, and distilled spirits as defined in section 5002(a)(8), of such Code. However, this does not apply to possession of wine, beer, or distilled spirits which are:(a)(3)(i) Manifested and transported as part of a shipment; or

(a)(3)(ii) Possessed or used by bus passengers.

Q: I've heard that I could be in violation of the regulations if the cold medication I brought along with me in the truck contains alcohol. Is this true?

A: Because most cough and cold medicines and even some mouthwashes often contain a substantial amount of alcohol, you could possibly be in violation of the regulations if you use them while on duty, or even carry them in your overnight bag on the truck. Note the definitions below that are cited in the regulations:

§382.107 Definitions.

Alcohol means the intoxicating agent in beverage alcohol, ethyl alcohol, or other low molecular weight alcohols including methyl and isopropyl alcohol.Alcohol concentration (or content) means the alcohol in a volume of breath expressed in terms of grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath as indicated by an evidential breath test under this part.

Alcohol use means the drinking or swallowing of any beverage, liquid mixture or preparation (including any medication), containing alcohol.

CMCI, a division of OOIDA, offers truckers an answer to the hassle and confusion of mandatory drug and alcohol testing. Through CMCI, OOIDA members can comply with mandatory drug and alcohol testing utilizing its nationwide network of testing sites.

If you have any questions regarding drug and alcohol testing, feel free to call a CMCI representative at 1-800-288-3784.

If you have questions about doing business as an owner-operator and/or an independent trucker, please e-mail them or send them to PO Box 1000, Grain Valley, MO 64029. We can't publish all of your questions in Land Line, but you will receive a response, even if your letter is not published.