DOT Alcohol Testing

WHAT ALCOHOL USE IS PROHIBITED?

Alcohol is a legal substance; therefore, the rules define specific prohibited alcohol-related conduct. Performance of safety-sensitive functions is prohibited:

  • While using alcohol.

  • While having a breath alcohol concentration of 0.04 percent or greater as indicated by an alcohol breath test.

  • Within four hours after using alcohol.

In addition, refusing to submit to an alcohol test or using alcohol within eight hours after an accident or until tested (for drivers required to be tested) are prohibited.

 

WHAT ALCOHOL TESTS ARE REQUIRED?

The following alcohol tests are required:

  • Post-accident - conducted after accidents on drivers whose performance could have contributed to the accident (as determined by a citation for a moving traffic violation) and for all fatal accidents even if the driver is not cited for a moving traffic violation.

  • Reasonable suspicion - conducted when a trained supervisor or company official observes behavior or appearance that is characteristic of alcohol misuse.

  • Random - conducted on a random unannounced basis just before, during, or just after performance of safety-sensitive functions.

  • Return-to-duty and follow-up - conducted when an individual who has violated the prohibited alcohol conduct standards returns to performing safety-sensitive duties. Follow-up tests are unannounced. At least 6 tests must be conducted in the first 12 months after a driver returns to duty. Follow-up testing may be extended for up to 60 months following return to duty.

 

HOW DOES RANDOM ALCOHOL TESTING WORK?

Random alcohol testing must be conducted just before, during, or just after a driver's performance of safety-sensitive duties. The driver is randomly selected for testing from a "pool" of subject drivers. The testing dates and times are unannounced and are reasonably spread throughout the year. Each year, the number of random tests conducted by the employer must equal at least 10% of average number of driver positions subject to the regulations.

 

HOW WILL ALCOHOL TESTING BE DONE?

The rules allow for screening tests to be conducted using saliva devices or breath testing using evidential breath testing (EBT) and non-evidential breath testing devices approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). NHTSA periodically publishes a list of approved devices in the Federal Register.

Two tests are required to determine if a person has a prohibited alcohol concentration. A screening test is conducted first. Any result less than 0.02 alcohol concentration is considered a "negative" test. If the alcohol concentration is 0.02 or greater, a second confirmation test must be conducted. The driver and the individual conducting the confirmation breath test (called a breath alcohol technician (BAT) complete the alcohol testing form to ensure that the results are properly recorded. The confirmation test, if required, must be conducted using an EBT that prints out the results, date and time, a sequential test number, and the name and serial number of the EBT to ensure the reliability of the results. The confirmation test results determine any actions taken.

Testing procedures that ensure accuracy, reliability and confidentiality of test results are outlined in the Part 40 rule. These procedures include training and proficiency requirements for the screening test technicians (STT), breath alcohol technicians (BAT), quality assurance plans for the breath testing devices (including calibration requirements for a suitable test location), and protection of driver test records.

 

WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES OF ALCOHOL MISUSE?

Drivers who engage in prohibited alcohol conduct must be immediately removed from safety-sensitive functions. Drivers who have engaged in alcohol misuse cannot return to safety-sensitive duties until they have been evaluated by a substance abuse professional and complied with any treatment recommendations to assist them with an alcohol problem. To further safeguard transportation safety, drivers who have any alcohol concentration (defined as 0.02 or greater) when tested just before, during or just after performing safety-sensitive functions must also be removed from performing such duties for 24 hours. If a driver's behavior or appearance suggests alcohol misuse, a reasonable suspicion alcohol test must be conducted. If a breath test cannot be administered, the driver must be removed from performing safety-sensitive duties for at least 24 hours.

 

ARE DRIVER ALCOHOL TESTING RECORDS CONFIDENTIAL?

Yes. Test results and other confidential information may be released only to the employer and the substance abuse professional. Any other release of this information is only with the driver's written consent. If a driver initiates a grievance, hearing, lawsuit, or other action as a result of a violation of these rules, the employer may release relevant information to the decision maker.

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