DOT Reasonable Suspicion Drug & Alcohol Testing

By Richard Pummell, Foley Carrier Services

Our last two articles on Pre-Employment and Random Testing aimed to create a better understanding of the ins and outs of hiring and setting up drivers in a compliant Drug & Alcohol Testing Program.

Now that you have a negative pre-employment drug test on file, your new employee is cleared to begin driving. As the employer, you make sure he is enrolled in your random drug-testing program and put him to work. And while everything runs smoothly at first, you begin noticing some troubling behaviors: all of a sudden, he’s showing up late and missing runs. You immediately begin to worry that this may be an indication of drug and/or alcohol abuse – something you could be held accountable for if this driver is a liability on the road. Knowing this, you feel you have every right to send him for a drug and/or alcohol test.

But guess what? It’s not that simple.

Reasonable Suspicion Training
The DOT is very specific that the decision to send an employee for Reasonable Suspicion testing cannot be based on mere suspicion alone. Rather, there must be concrete evidence that justifies sending a driver to take a drug and/or alcohol test. To ensure you are able to accurately assess these situations, all DOT-regulated business owners (excluding owner-operators) are required to complete a two-hour training session in reasonable suspicion criteria. This session spends one hour each on drug and alcohol abuse.

There are at least three very good reasons why you should complete this two-hour training:

  1.  You may be unaware of the specific criteria that allows you to administer Reasonable Suspicion testing;
  2.  There are behaviors that may mimic drug and/or alcohol use, but are actually due to different circumstances;
  3.  It’s required by the DOT!

Two Situations That Don’t Warrant Testing
Hearsay: Imagine going about your workday when out of the blue, your boss shows up demanding that you immediately take a drug test because somebody told her you use drugs. In doing so, your boss would be impeding upon your human rights. By definition, you absolutely cannot “reasonably suspect” drug and/or alcohol use simply because of hearsay.

Unusual and/or a Change in Behavior: Are drug and/or alcohol use the only circumstances under which a person’s behavior may change? Maybe you’ve noticed a change in behavior because the driver has a sick family member. Maybe a relationship just ended. Behavior changes alone do not validate Reasonable Suspicion testing.

A “Here & Now” Situation
If you have been trained in the reasonable suspicion criteria and are currently in a situation where concrete behaviors (i.e. slurring, stumbling) and/or body odors (i.e. alcohol, marijuana) are exhibited, then you may require reasonable suspicion testing.

If this is the case, the following steps must be taken:

  • Accurately record everything in regards to the situation. This includes a checklist of behaviors, contact you’ve had with the driver, and notification of the Reasonable Suspicion test.
  • Arrange transportation for the driver to and from the collection facility. It is crucial the individual is not allowed to drive once a Reasonable Suspicion situation has been established.
  • If the driver refuses to test and has gotten in his or her vehicle to leave the scene, you have the right to and should contact authorities to alert them that this individual is on the road and could be endangering lives.

Reasonable Suspicion situations are extremely serious. If you have not had the required two-hour training session, do not put it off for another minute. Please visit www.foleyservices.com to order a DVD training package.

Stay tuned for our next article, which will uncover the specifics of Post-Accident DOT Drug & Alcohol Testing.

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