The trucking industry has strict regulations for drug and alcohol testing. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) enforces these requirements. Motor carriers may be subject to steep fines and other penalties if they do not follow all the necessary rules for their drug and alcohol programs. Any drivers who fail or refuse a drug test must be immediately removed from safety-sensitive duties. It is important to understand what constitutes a drug test refusal in order to understand when these rules apply.

What Counts as a Drug Test Refusal?

There are a variety of actions that can fall under the umbrella of refusing a drug test. Different individuals or organizations may be responsible for determining whether a driver’s actions constituted a refusal. These include the employer, the Screening Test Technician (STT), the Designated Employer Representative (DER), and the Medical Review Officer (MRO).

Some of the actions that are part of FMCSA’s definition of drug test refusal include:

  • Not going to get a drug test when the employer requires it, including taking an unreasonably long amount of time to get to the testing center
  • Failing to provide enough urine for a sample (Note: there is a “shy bladder” procedure that testing sites must follow to give time to produce a sample)
  • Not allowing observation when observed urine collection is required
  • Leaving the site before testing is finished
  • Failing to follow all instructions during the collection, i.e. not emptying pockets
  • Tampering with urine collection or falsifying a sample

Pre-employment tests follow most of the same rules as other types of screening, with one exception.  If the applicant has not yet given a sample, they can say no to the test and the potential employer would not report this as refusal. The applicant would still not be able to begin safety-sensitive duties without a negative drug test. Once collection starts, any tampering or leaving the site early would constitute a refusal.

What Happens After a Driver Refuses a Drug Test?

Motor carriers must report any refusals to the FMCSA Clearinghouse and immediately remove the employee from safety-sensitive duties.

Trucking companies may have individual policies that require the termination of employment after a failed or refused test. The FMCSA does not require this, but it is permissible as long as this is clearly stated in your drug testing policy.

The motor carrier must provide a list of Substance Abuse Professionals (SAPs) to the driver. A SAP must oversee the return-to-duty process. This individual will determine when the driver can return to safety-sensitive duties and will make recommendations for follow-up testing.

Note that the motor carrier is not responsible for the return-to-duty process beyond providing a list of SAPs. If they choose to terminate the driver’s employment, it is up to the driver to ensure they complete evaluations with the SAP. Companies are responsible for checking the drug and alcohol test history of any applicants and will be able to see whether the driver has ever refused/failed a test and if they completed the return-to-duty process.

Implement a Drug Testing Program

At HDS Safety Services, we can help you stay compliant with FMCSA regulations and operate one of the largest drug testing consortiums in Arizona. We can manage your testing program and also offer electronic logging device (ELD) audits, training, and other compliance services.

To learn more about HDS Safety Services, contact us today.

Drug testing is an important component of Department of Transportation (DOT) compliance. This is true for large and small motor carriers alike and even companies with one driver must follow these regulations. Owner-operator drug test requirements are fairly similar to other types of drivers, but there are some unique considerations to keep in mind.

Industry-Wide Drug Testing Requirements

The DOT and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) outline the times when commercial motor vehicle (CMV) operators must be tested for drug use. These are the same for owner-operators and company drivers alike.

Someone who operates a CMV must be tested under the following circumstances:

  • Pre-Employment: Before beginning safety-sensitive duties, a driver must pass a drug test. For owner-operators, the pre-employment requirement must be completed after getting a United States DOT (USDOT) number and before driving a CMV.
  • Random Testing: All commercial drivers must be part of a random testing pool. The FMCSA sets testing rates for these pools each year based on the rate of violations. The process for random testing is different for self-employed drivers, and we will discuss this in detail later in this article.
  • Post-Accident: If an accident results in a fatality and/or involves a citation, post-accident drug testing is required.
  • Reasonable Suspicion: For company drivers, the reasonable suspicion requirement applies if a trained supervisor notices signs of drug use. Owner-operators are still subject to the reasonable suspicion requirement, but the process does look different since there is not a supervisor.
  • Return-to-Duty and Follow-Up Testing: If a self-employed driver has a positive drug test result, they must complete the return-to-duty process.

Differences for Owner-Operators

Registering and Querying in the FMCSA Clearinghouse

The FMCSA Clearinghouse is a system that tracks drug and alcohol program violations. Unlike company drivers, owner-operators are required to register as employers, even if they only employ themselves. These individuals also have to perform annual queries for themselves, in addition to meeting all other requirements for both motor carriers and drivers.

Drug Testing Consortium Requirement

A consortium/third-party administrator (C/TPA) is an association that combines the testing pools of several motor carriers for the purpose of random selection. Since an owner-operator cannot randomly select themselves, self-employed drivers are required to appoint a C/TPA to meet FMCSA requirements.

Reasonable Suspicion

The FMCSA requires supervisors to complete reasonable suspicion training and to drug test employees who are displaying signs of drug use. If an owner-operator does not have any employees besides themselves, this requirement would not make sense. As a result, owner-operators do not have to undergo this training unless they employ other drivers. However, this does not mean owner-operators are completely exempt from this type of testing. For larger motor carriers, C/TPAs are not permitted to order reasonable suspicion testing, but they can do so for owner-operators. This must be based on physical observation so it is rarer compared to other types of owner-operator drug testing, but it is still a possibility.

Compliance Services for Owner-Operators

HDS Safety Services can help you stay compliant with DOT regulations whether you manage a large fleet or are self-employed. For owner-operators, we can handle all aspects of your drug testing and safety program so you can focus on driving.

To learn more about our drug testing consortium, contact us today.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) limits the amount of time a trucker can drive. These hours of service (HOS) regulations are intended to prevent driver fatigue and reduce the risk of accidents. In order to track HOS, trucking companies are required to use electronic logging devices (ELDs), with some exceptions. Electronic logs for truckers are sophisticated tools and many go beyond the basic FMCSA requirements and offer additional functions for safety and efficiency. It’s important to understand how these devices work and how to use them in order to avoid potential fines for violations.

What is an ELD?

An electronic log is a device that connects to a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) and tracks HOS. It uses GPS technology as well as a connection to the vehicle’s engine to determine when the truck is moving. It also collects information about location, which may be very exact or more general depending on the device.

How Records of Duty Status are Tracked

The log keeps records of duty status (RODS) that indicate whether the trucker was driving on-duty or off-duty during a given timeframe. To be FMCSA-compliant, an ELD must automatically record driving time. When the CMV is moving at 5 mile per hour (mph) or more, the log will set the status to driving. This cannot be altered by the driver or anyone else, although annotations can be added to explain unusual circumstances, such as driving in adverse conditions or during a drop-off.

When the vehicle registers as stopped for more than five minutes, it will prompt the driver to either confirm that they are still driving or to enter a different status. This can be on-duty not driving, off-duty, or sleeper berth. If they do not select an option within one minute, the status will automatically be set to on-duty not driving.

Auditing Electronic Log Data

At roadside inspections, the RODS stored in a trucker’s electronic log need to be transferred to the inspector or law enforcement officer. This can be done via Bluetooth, email, or USB. The inspector can see at a glance whether there are any violations within the past eight days.

Staying Compliant with HOS Rules

It is important that your company’s drivers and safety personnel understand how to operate your electronic logs and how to correctly record on-duty or off-duty status. Driving beyond the HOS limits set by the FMCSA can affect your compliance, safety, and accountability (CSA) score and can result in fines for both your carrier and the driver. These regulations were most recently updated in July 2020 .

ELD Audits by HDS Safety Services

We can help your company stay up to date with FMCSA requirements. We offer ELD auditing as well as HOS training for drivers and supervisors. With so many rules to keep track of, it can be extremely valuable to have a company on your side to help you stay safe and compliant.

To learn more about our electronic log auditing and other services, contact us today.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) requires motor carriers to perform drug and alcohol testing. This is essential for ensuring that drivers are able to safely operate commercial motor vehicles. Whether a company has thousands of drivers or only one owner-operator, it must have a drug and alcohol testing program in place to stay compliant and avoid large fines. A drug testing consortium is an association of multiple different companies which form one larger testing pool. This is required for owner-operators or small companies, and even larger motor carriers can benefit from partnering with a third-party for DOT compliance services.

Do You Need to Be Part of a Drug Testing Consortium?

Under federal law, all commercial drivers must undergo drug and alcohol testing at specific times before and during their employment. Motor carriers must follow strict regulations while setting up and running their testing program. Being part of a consortium is not a requirement for all trucking companies, but it can be helpful when there are so many rules to keep track of. Additionally, consortium membership is required by the DOT for owner-operators and motor carriers with fewer than 10 employees. This is because random testing is not effective for carriers of this size, so they need to combine their testing pool with other companies to achieve accurate random selection.

Random Drug Testing

To understand how a drug testing consortium works, it’s helpful to understand how random testing works overall. The DOT requires carriers to select a minimum percentage of drivers each year for drug and alcohol screening. This can be increased or decreased based on the number of violations in the industry. It is necessary to use a “scientifically valid method” for selection so that each driver in the pool has an equal chance of being selected.

If a company is part of a consortium, their drivers are included in a larger pool for random selection. The percentage requirement applies to the pool as a whole, not to the individual companies that are included. This means that as long as the consortium follows all regulations for scientifically valid random selection and minimum percentages, each company is compliant with the random testing rule.

Benefits of Joining a Drug Testing Consortium

Even for companies that are not required to fulfill their drug testing requirement through a consortium, there are many benefits to membership.

These include:

  • A consortium/third-party administrator will have knowledge of DOT compliance and will keep your company up-to-date with the latest changes.
  • Your consortium can help you find a testing site for selected drivers no matter where they are in the country when they are selected.
  • You can reduce your company’s administrative burden while still remaining compliant.

One of the Largest Consortiums in Arizona

HDS Safety Services operates one of the largest random drug testing consortiums in the State of Arizona. We also offer non-DOT testing and can manage every aspect of your testing program. Additionally, our compliance services extend beyond drug and alcohol screening and include electronic logging device (ELD) audits, driver qualification file management, and training.

To learn more about joining our drug testing consortium, contact us today.


The Department of Transportation (DOT) oversees the regulation of trucking companies. They set rules that motor carriers must follow and failing to stay compliant can have serious consequences. Some of these situations affect individual drivers or vehicles and others affect the company as a whole. Depending on the DOT violation that occurred, your team will need to take swift action to address the issue.

Some possible DOT violations include:

Driver: Failed Drug Test

If a commercial driver refuses to take a drug test or the presence of a controlled substance is detected, they will need to cease safety-sensitive duties immediately. The violation must be reported to the Clearinghouse and the carrier will need to give the driver a list of substance abuse professionals (SAPs). In order to drive again, the driver will need to complete treatment and undergo return-to-duty testing. Follow-up testing is also required, and the frequency of this will depend on the SAP’s recommendations.

Driver: Exceeding Hours of Service

Law enforcement may issue a citation for any commercial driver exceeding hours of service (HOS) limits. After this type of violation, the driver will be required to stop driving until they are back in compliance. There is usually a fine for the citation depending on local laws and DOT fines for the driver and/or carrier may also be assessed. A pattern of HOS violations will impact a carrier’s compliance, safety, and accountability (CSA) score.

Vehicle: DOT Inspection Violations

During a roadside truck inspection, a DOT official may find a variety of different issues with a semi-truck. What happens after a violation is discovered depends on the nature of the problem. Some issues are recorded and must be repaired, but the truck can continue to be operated. However, other violations are considered more serious and the vehicle will be placed out of service.

Carrier: Conditional or Unsatisfactory DOT Audit

DOT audits check for a variety of different violations at a company-wide level. If any are found, your carrier could receive a conditional or unsatisfactory rating. For both of these, you will need to pay fines for any violations the inspector discovered and will need to submit a plan for how you will correct these.

Addressing DOT Violations

Preventing DOT violations in the first place is by far the most effective option. However, if you have received a violation, it’s important to address it quickly to avoid interruptions to your operation. The DOT will usually outline what steps you need to take from this point.

Stay Compliant with HDS Safety Services

We can help your trucking company avoid violations with training, drug and alcohol testing services, and more.

To learn how we can assist you in avoiding DOT violations, contact us today.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) and its subagency the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulate trucking companies. One of their many objectives is to ensure drivers do not use drugs or alcohol while operating commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). Understanding truck driver drug testing is essential to staying compliant and avoiding costly fines, as well as helping keep drivers and others on the road safe.

Some frequently asked questions about truck driver drug testing include:

Do all truck drivers get drug tested?

Per FMCSA regulations, anyone who operates a CMV must undergo drug and alcohol testing. This means all truck drivers, whether they are full-time or part-time, are subject to this requirement.

Do owner-operator truck drivers get drug tested?

Yes, owner-operators are required to undergo drug testing. Specifically, these individuals must be part of a drug and alcohol testing consortium. This is a pool of other drivers that are selected for random testing.

How often do truck drivers need to be drug tested?

Commercial drivers must undergo drug testing at these times:

  • Before beginning safety-sensitive duties for a new company
  • Randomly throughout the course of employment as a driver
  • If a supervisor has reasonable suspicion of drug or alcohol abuse
  • After some types of accidents
  • Before returning to duty after a positive drug test

What happens if a driver fails a DOT drug test?

If a commercial driver tests positive for a controlled substance, they must immediately cease safety-sensitive duties. Letting a driver continue to operate a CMV after a failed drug test is a serious DOT violation and can result in large fines for a motor carrier. Additionally, there may be other consequences depending on the trucking company’s specific policy. The carrier needs to provide the driver with a list of substance abuse professionals (SAPs) and the driver must complete treatment with one of these to return to duty. A negative test result will be required before the driver can operate a CMV again and follow-up testing will be scheduled based on the SAP’s recommendations.

What obligations does a motor carrier have for drug testing?

A motor carrier must perform all testing as required by the DOT and document the results for drivers. All positive tests must be reported to the FMCSA Clearinghouse and the return-to-duty process must be followed. The standard for DOT testing is a five-panel drug test. Motor carriers may perform hair testing in addition to this, but must use the standard urine test to meet DOT requirements.

HDS Safety Services Can Help Keep You Compliant

HDS Safety Services offers a variety of different DOT compliance services, including drug testing. We operate one of the largest random testing consortiums in Arizona and are committed to helping you maintain a drug-free workplace.

To learn more about our truck driver drug testing services, contact us today.

For DOT-regulated drug and alcohol testing, split specimens are standard practice. A split specimen test proceeds much the same as any other urine test. However, the driver’s collected urine is divided into two samples. If the first tested sample reveals a positive result, the second sample can be tested to either confirm or reject the findings of the first test.

Background of Split Specimen Tests

Split specimen tests protect drivers and other employees from false positives. This testing procedure became mandatory for the transportation industry in 1991 when the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act (OTETA) was passed. OTETA’s split specimen provisions were intended to protect drivers from faulty lab equipment, lab mix-ups, and false positives triggered by the presence of legitimate medications or foods. Under the OTETA, only the employee can request testing of the second sample. The DOT, employer, or medical review officer (MRO) doesn’t have the authority to order testing of the second sample.

Benefits of Split Specimen Tests

Split specimen tests are beneficial for both employees and employers. Employees get peace of mind knowing that a lab mix-up or equipment malfunction won’t cost them their jobs and good reputation. Employers also benefit from split specimen drug and alcohol testing. They can rest assured knowing that the employee can’t provide an artificially clean sample of urine for a second test—only urine that has already been collected will be tested.

Payment for Split Specimen Tests

Once an employee has been notified by the MRO that the first sample tested positive, he or she has 72 hours to request a test of the second sample. If the employee can’t pay for the second test, the FMCSA requires the employer to pay for it so that the test can be conducted in a timely manner. Following this, the employer may seek reimbursement from the employee in accordance with any applicable collective bargaining policy or written company policy.


HDS Safety Services is a leading provider of drug and alcohol testing for safety-sensitive workers. Our collection sites are available around the country, with secure storage of electronic results. Call (520) 622-0419 to speak with a drug and alcohol testing expert in Tucson, AZ.