Highway safety is important and with so many semi-trucks in operation, motor carriers play a significant role in keeping our nation’s roads safe. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates this industry. One of the ways they track metrics for trucking companies is with their Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) program. Carriers are assigned a percentile rank based on performance and these ranks are known as CSA scores. Understanding what this number means and how you can improve it is important to keep your company safe and compliant.

What is a Good CSA Score?

CSA scores represent a percentage value from 0 to 100. Lower scores are best. The score includes different categories and each category has a different intervention threshold set by the FMCSA.

How Can I Check My CSA Score?

Motor carriers can check their CSA scores on the FMCSA website. You will need your United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) number and PIN to log in. These scores are updated monthly so your company can monitor trends and take corrective action as needed. If your score rises above a certain point, the FMCSA may also send a warning letter.

Final CSA scores are not available to the public. However, percentiles for certain categories are available and anyone can look these up by company name or USDOT number.

What are the Seven CSA BASICs?

CSA scores are broken down into seven categories, which are called Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs). Each BASIC has its own individual percentile rank and also contributes to the final score.

The seven BASICs are:

Unsafe Driving

This BASIC score increases for violations related to careless or dangerous driving. This can include texting, speeding, improper lane change, driver inattention, and more.

Crash Indicator

A motor carrier’s Crash Indicator is one of the BASICs that is only visible when logged into the CSA website. This score is based on crash involvement and both severity and frequency are factors.

HOS Compliance

Commercial drivers must comply with hours of service (HOS) requirements. These are designed to reduce driver fatigue and lower the risk of crashes. HOS violations raise the CSA score for this BASIC.

Vehicle Maintenance

Trucking companies need to properly maintain their commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) to help prevent crashes. Any violations at roadside inspections can increase the Vehicle Maintenance BASIC.

Controlled Substances/Alcohol

Operating a commercial vehicle while impaired is a serious safety violation and is against the law. If one of your drivers fails a roadside alcohol or drug test, it will affect this BASIC.

Hazardous Materials Compliance

There are many different regulations for transporting hazardous materials (hazmat). Violating any of these can result in an increase of the Hazardous Materials Compliance BASIC.

Driver Fitness

Motor carriers must ensure that their drivers are qualified to operate a CMV. If a driver doesn’t have a valid commercial driver’s license (CDL) or is medically unqualified, it will affect the company’s Driver Fitness score.

How Can You Improve Your CSA Score?

Your motor carrier should have proper safety protocols in place and follow these at all times to keep your CSA score low. If your CSA score is beginning to rise, you should consider which BASIC is affected. This will determine which actions you should take. Working with a safety consulting company can also be beneficial. HDS Safety Services can help you improve your fleet’s safety and can provide training, file management, drug testing, and more.

Contact us today to discuss how we can help you lower your fleet’s CSA score.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) conducts millions of roadside inspections each year. This is to make sure that commercial motor vehicles and their drivers are following safety regulations. There are six different DOT inspection levels and each one covers different parts of the vehicle and/or aspects of the driver’s credentials. Knowing the differences between these levels can help you prepare your fleet for what to expect.

The six DOT inspection levels are:

Level I: North American Standard Inspection

A Level I North American Standard Inspection is the most comprehensive and most common type. The inspector will examine the commercial motor vehicle inside and out and will check a variety of different parts for any potential issues. These include the steering mechanism, seatbelt, coupling devices, exhaust system, wheels, turn signals, and more. The driver will also need to present their commercial driver’s license (CDL), shipping papers, medical examiner’s certificate, and other types of certification and paperwork if applicable. During a Level I DOT inspection, the vehicle may also be searched for drugs/alcohol and the inspector will check for signs of impairment.

For a more thorough overview of what a North American Standard Inspection includes, please read our previous article, “The Steps of a Truck Inspection.”

Level II: Walk-Around DOT Inspection

A Level II inspection, also called a walk-around inspection, is relatively similar to a Level I DOT inspection. The difference is that the inspector will only examine external parts of the truck. They will still ask for all necessary documents from the driver and will make sure the vehicle is in good working order.

Level III: Driver-Only Inspection

During a Level III DOT inspection, the vehicle is not checked. This level is focused on the driver of the truck only. The inspector will check all necessary documentation and will ensure there are no hours of service (HOS) violations or signs of drug/alcohol impairment.

Level IV: Special Inspection

The DOT typically conducts Level IV inspections for research purposes. These inspections usually cover only one specific part of the vehicle. In many cases, this is to track compliance over time for a specific trend the DOT is interested in studying.

Level V: Vehicle-Only Inspection

During a vehicle-only inspection, the driver is not checked and the focus is on the vehicle. In many cases, this will occur when the driver is not present due to an accident. It covers all of the same vehicle parts as a Level I Inspection.

Level VI: Radioactive Shipments

A Level VI inspection is an enhanced inspection for radioactive shipments. This applies to any motor carrier hauling Highway Route Controlled Quantities (HRCQ) of radioactive materials. All of the same requirements as the Level I inspection apply, plus additional factors specific to radioactivity.

DOT Compliance Training

Any of these inspection levels could occur at any time, so it’s important that your drivers are prepared. HDS Safety Services offers hands-on maintenance and inspection training. We also assist motor carriers with other aspects of compliance including driver qualification file management, electronic logging device auditing, and more.

To learn more about our DOT compliance services, contact us today.

In July 2020, the Department of Transportation (DOT)/Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released a Final Rule regarding their hours of service regulations. The goal was to increase flexibility for commercial drivers without negatively affecting highway safety. These changes took effect starting on September 29, 2020. It’s important for motor carriers to understand the most recent DOT hours of service/HOS rules so that they can avoid violations. If you are looking for more general information about these regulations, our electronic logging device (ELD) page includes a chart that lists these for both property-carrying and passenger-carrying drivers.

Here are the recent changes for the DOT Final Rule on HOS:

Expands the Short-Haul Exemption

The FMCSA requires that most types of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) have ELDs installed. However, there are some exceptions for specific circumstances. One of these is the short-haul exemption. This allows drivers who meet certain requirements to keep physical records instead of using an ELD. While some of the requirements are the same, the DOT Final Rule updated the maximum air-mile radius and on-duty time.

The following requirements remain the same after the new Final Rule:

  • Drivers using the short-haul exemption must return to the same work reporting location at the start and end of their shift.
  • It is necessary to keep a time card that includes the start and end of a shift as well as the total number of hours worked daily.

The Final Rule updated these factors:

  • Before September 29, drivers using the short-haul exemption had to travel within a radius of 100 air miles. The Final Rule extended this to 150 air miles.
  • The maximum on-duty time has been extended from 12 hours to 14 hours.

Adverse Driving Conditions

Sometimes, adverse conditions make it unsafe for a driver to stop before they go over their time limit. DOT hours of service regulations include an exemption for these circumstances. If adverse driving conditions were not known ahead of time, the maximum driving time could be extended from 11 hours to 13 hours. However, this did not affect the 14 hour maximum for on-duty time. After the most recent changes took effect, the on-duty maximum extends by two hour as well, increasing not only the maximum driving time but also the “window” in which this can occur.

30-Minute Break

Previously, property-carrying drivers were required to take a break (off-duty or sleeper berth) of 30 minutes or more if they had been on duty for eight hours. The new requirement modifies the eight hour time period to include driving only. The break can also now include time spent on duty, but not driving.

Sleeper Berth Exemption

Under the previous regulations, there were two different ways to meet the off-duty hours requirement. A driver could take 10 consecutive hours off duty or could split this up into a minimum of eight consecutive hours in the sleeper berth, plus at least two separate consecutive hours off duty. The second option is called the sleeper berth exemption. The Final Rule modified this so a driver can now take a minimum of seven consecutive hours in the sleeper berth, plus at least three separate consecutive hours off duty.

DOT Hours of Service Education Tool

The DOT/FMCSA released an online tool that drivers and carriers can use to better understand the latest changes to HOS regulations. Educational Tool for Hours of Service (ETHOS) allows users to input hypothetical hours and also includes some sample scenarios showing compliance and non-compliance. This tool is designed for educational purposes only and is not meant to monitor actual compliance. However, it can be very helpful to see how the regulations could apply to real-world situations.

Your Partner in Compliance

With so many changes to DOT rules and regulations, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. HDS Safety Services can help. We offer ELD monitoring services and can keep your fleet up-to-date with the latest standards.

To learn more about how we can help with DOT hours of service compliance, contact us today.

Safe trucking starts before a driver even gets behind the wheel. If a semi-truck is not working properly, it puts the driver, their cargo, and anyone else on the road in danger. Because of this, the Department of Transportation (DOT) conducts periodic roadside checks of commercial motor vehicles. A truck inspection can happen at any time and there are six different levels. Of these, the most common is the Level I North American Standard Inspection. This is the variety we will discuss in this article. You can view a full list of inspection types on the official Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) website.

Driver Inspection

Before the DOT inspector examines the vehicle itself, they will conduct a thorough review of the driver. They will check that the driver is using a seatbelt, look for signs of drug or alcohol use, and verify that there are no hours of service (HOS) violations. The inspector will then ask for various types of documentation from the driver. It is important that your drivers are aware of what documents are required and that they keep these in a safe and easily-accessible location within their truck.

The inspector will request the following documents during a Level I truck inspection:

  • Commercial driver’s license (CDL)
  • Medical examiner’s certificate
  • Shipping papers
  • Skill Performance Evaluation (SPE) Certificate, if applicable
  • Record of duty status, as required
  • Vehicle inspection report(s), if applicable

Truck Inspection

After reviewing the driver’s documentation, the inspector will thoroughly examine the truck to ensure that it is in good condition. They will begin by walking around the truck to check for any overall issues and then will individually check each part.

The truck inspection process includes, but is not limited to, the following parts:

  • Brake system
  • Steering mechanisms
  • Coupling devices
  • Trailer and cargo
  • Tires
  • Hubcaps, rims, and wheels
  • Fuel system
  • Exhaust system
  • Turn signals and lights
  • Windshield

As they examine the vehicle, the inspector will note the condition of every part. If there are any concerns, they will indicate these on their inspection form and will let the driver know. In the case of critical violations, the truck will be marked as out-of-service and may not be operated until the issue is corrected.

Preparing for a Truck Inspection

A DOT inspection can happen at any time, so it is important that your drivers are prepared during every trip. This includes completing a pre-trip inspection, which should cover the same parts as a Level I truck inspection.

Maintenance and Inspection Training

HDS Safety Services offers on-site, hands-on inspection training. We will show your drivers how to conduct a thorough inspection of their own vehicles and will give them helpful information about what the DOT expects. This gives your motor carrier peace of mind knowing that your drivers are prepared in case of a roadside inspection.

Contact us today for more information about truck inspection training and our other DOT compliance services.

Staying compliant with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations is an ongoing process. It is important to be aware of the requirements for hiring drivers as well as what you need to keep on record throughout their employment. Driver qualification files, also called DQFs, include information about safety-sensitive employees. These files must be properly maintained and should be easily accessible in case of an audit.

Driver qualification files must include:

Initial Pre-Employment Documents

The following information must be collected and documented at the start of a driver’s employment:

Application for Employment

The driver’s application must be completed, signed, and kept on file. The FMCSA regulates what this application must include and this is outlined in 49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 391.21.

Road Test Certificate

To drive a commercial vehicle, an individual must successfully complete a road test. You must keep a copy of this completion certificate on file. A valid commercial driver’s license (CDL) is an acceptable equivalent.

Inquiry to Previous Employers

You must investigate the previous three years of the driver’s employment by requesting documentation from previous employers. The driver qualification file must include a record of this request as well as the responses. Additionally, if the driver makes a rebuttal or correction due to inaccuracies in the information from employers, you must keep this on file as well.

Three-Year Driving Record

Motor carriers must contact agencies for any state where the driver has held a CDL to obtain the driver’s motor vehicle record (MVR) for the past three years.

Drug and Alcohol Testing Documents

Trucking companies must perform drug and alcohol testing at specific times. In addition to performing required pre-employment drug testing, you must investigate whether a new driver has any drug or alcohol violations on record for the past three years. The driver qualification file needs to include any violations as well as documentation of the return-to-duty process, if applicable.

Since January 6, 2020, it is necessary to query the FMCSA Clearinghouse and to conduct a traditional manual inquiry with previous employers. This is because the Clearinghouse does not yet cover the full three-year timeframe. After January 6, 2023, only the electronic query will be required.  The Clearinghouse retains a record of queries, so it is not necessary to maintain a separate copy, although you may choose to do so.

Additional Documents

For some types of drivers, additional documentation is necessary. For example, drivers with less than one year of experience will need an entry-level driver training certificate.

Ongoing Updates

MVR Inquiry

Each year, motor carriers must request an updated MVR for each of their drivers.

MVR Review

In addition to keeping the annual MVR updates on record, it is necessary to document an annual review of this information. You must ensure that the CDL driver is not disqualified from operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV). The list of disqualifying offenses is given in 49 CFR 391.15.

Driver’s Certification of Violations

Annually, drivers must submit a list of all motor vehicle law violations that they were convicted of in the past 12 months. Motor carriers must then compare this list with the annual MVR inquiry to ensure there are no discrepancies.

Medical Examination Report and Certificate

Every 24 months at a minimum, drivers must complete a Department of Transportation (DOT) physical with a qualified medical examiner. You need to keep a copy of the medical examiner’s certificate that states the driver is qualified to operate a CMV. In addition to the report and certificate, you must include a note verifying that the examiner is listed on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners.

Driver Qualification File Management

At HDS Safety Services, we understand that it can be difficult to keep track of the many FMCSA regulations and to maintain files for all of your drivers. Our driver qualification file management service makes it easy for you to stay compliant. We can organize your documents as well as optimize your hiring process.

To learn more about our driver qualification file management service, contact us today.

Ensuring that safety-sensitive employees are drug-free is an essential component of Department of Transportation (DOT) compliance. Motor carriers must test their drivers for drug use at specific times. These include before employment as well as randomly for as long as they hold their position. The standard screening method for DOT-regulated companies is a 5-panel drug test. Although motor carriers may choose to conduct additional testing, this is the minimum for compliance.

How Does a 5-Panel Drug Test Work?

A 5-panel drug test checks for the presence of drug metabolites in an individual’s urine. Metabolites are chemicals that the human body creates while processing a specific drug. The first step to obtain test results is known as an immunoassay. A technician uses test strips with antibodies embedded in them to rapidly detect drug metabolites in the urine sample. If metabolites are present, the lab will then conduct a more sensitive gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) test. This can confirm or deny the positive result. After this, the Medical Review Officer (MRO) will contact the individual to determine if there is a medically acceptable explanation.

What Substances Does a 5-Panel Drug Test Include?

A standard DOT 5-panel urine drug test screens for the following substances:


Amphetamines are a type of stimulant. Some forms may be prescribed legally for conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). A DOT drug test detects the presence of amphetamine metabolites for up to four days after use. This includes amphetamine, methamphetamine, 3,4-methyl​enedioxy​methamphetamine (MDMA), and methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA).


Cocaine is another stimulant drug that trucking companies must screen for. A 5-panel drug test specifically checks for the presence of the metabolite benzoylecgonine, which can be present in urine for up to four days after use.


Opiates are painkillers derived from poppy resin and opioids are semi-synthetic forms of these drugs. At the start of 2018, the DOT expanded the number of drugs included in this panel, which screens for codeine, morphine, heroin, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxycodone, and oxymorphone. A urine test can detect opiate metabolites for up to four days after use.

Phencyclidine (PCP)

Phencyclidine (PCP), also called “angel dust,” is a dissociative drug that can produce hallucinations and a disconnect with reality. Metabolites can be detected in urine for up to 14 days after use.


Marijuana refers to dried leaves and buds of the Cannabis sativa plant. Specifically, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Motor carriers should be aware that the DOT strictly prohibits marijuana use even in states where recreational and/or medical use is legal. A 5-panel test screens for the presence of THC metabolites. Since these are fat-soluble, they can remain in urine for a longer period of time, up to 30 days in the case of heavy use.

Additional Drug Testing

Urine testing detects drug use within a relatively short time frame. Companies who want additional verification that employees are drug-free may choose to use hair testing. However, motor carriers who hair test must also complete the standard 5-panel urine test, as this is the only type of drug testing that is recognized by the DOT.

Drug Testing Services

HDS Safety Services can help you stay compliant with DOT regulations and ensure that your motor carrier is drug-free.

To learn more about 5-panel drug tests and other screening options, contact us today.

In order to ensure safety and compliance, the Department of Transportation (DOT) reviews companies that are subject to its regulations. If your trucking company is undergoing a DOT audit, it can be stressful and confusing. Luckily, HDS Safety Services can help you navigate this process.

What is a DOT Audit?

There are multiple types of audits the DOT may perform. The similarity is that all of these check whether a company is following the necessary guidelines. If the auditor discovers any violations, your motor carrier may be subject to large fines or interruptions to your operation.

The types of audits and when they occur:

  • New Entrant: This occurs during the first 18 months of operation and ensures compliance with all DOT regulations.
  • Targeted:A targeted audit occurs when there have been red flags related to compliance. One example is if a motor carrier’s Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) Score is too high. This is a percentile measure with 100 as the worst performance and 0 as the best. Crashes, hours-of-service violations, and other factors can raise the score. You can check your company’s safety rating using the CSA site.
  • Compliance Review: This is a general review of how well a company is following regulations. It can sometimes occur due to an issue such as a serious crash or citizen complaint. However, you can also be randomly selected for a DOT audit at any time.
  • This article focuses on compliance reviews, but HDS Safety Services can also assist you with preparing for a new entrant or targeted audit. If you have questions about your specific situation, please reach out for more information.

    The Compliance Review Process

    If your company has been selected for an audit, the DOT will contact you by phone. They will let you know if the audit will be off-site or on-site and will tell you which documents to send in advance. You will also need to have certain documents ready to present during an on-site audit. The auditor will review various aspects of your company’s safety performance. They may request additional documents after the on-site visit.

    After the review process is complete, you will receive a report and one of three ratings: satisfactory, conditional, or unsatisfactory. A satisfactory mark means your company is compliant with DOT requirements and regulations. A conditional rating indicates that the auditor discovered a violation, but does not consider your motor carrier to be a significant safety risk. You might need to pay fines and your insurance costs may increase, but you can submit a Safety Management Plan and correct the issue to raise your rating to satisfactory. An unsatisfactory mark means that there were significant safety violations. This will almost always result in large fines and if the violations were especially severe, the DOT could designate your motor carrier as “out of service.” You will need to submit a Safety Management Plan within a set time frame to avoid further consequences.

    Preparing For a DOT Audit

    The best way to prepare for an audit is to keep your records in order at all times, rather than scrambling to do so after you are selected for review. There are many different documents and files you must maintain for your drivers. These include the results of drug and alcohol testing, electronic logging device (ELD) records, annual driver reviews, and more.

    Stay Compliant with HDS Safety Services

    It can quickly become overwhelming to organize and maintain all the necessary documents for DOT compliance. However, proper record keeping is essential, especially if your motor carrier is selected for an audit. HDS Safety Services can help. We offer a variety of services including driver qualification file management. If you have been selected for DOT review, we also offer pre-audits to ensure you are prepared.

    To learn more about how we can help you stay compliant in case of a DOT audit, contact us today.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) requires that all motor carriers have a drug testing program in place for their safety-sensitive employees. This is to ensure that drivers are able to operate their vehicles without putting themselves or others in danger. If you operate a trucking company, you may be wondering whether or not you can use hair testing for drugs. This is allowed, but you do need to follow DOT guidelines to ensure you stay compliant.

Here is what you should know about hair testing as a motor carrier:

DOT-Required Drug Testing

In order to be compliant, trucking companies must test at specific times. These include screening potential employees before they start driving, testing randomly, if a supervisor has a reasonable suspicion of drug use, after an accident, and as part of the return-to-duty process.

The only acceptable testing method for DOT-required screening is urinalysis. The most common is a standard 5-panel test that checks for the presence of drug metabolites for marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, opiates, and phencyclidine (PCP).

Urine vs. Hair Tests

To understand why you might want to use hair testing in addition to DOT-mandated urine testing, it’s helpful to have a basic idea of how these types of drug tests work. Both tests check for the presence of drug metabolites, which are the chemicals left in the body after a drug has been metabolized (processed). The main difference is how long after drug use the tests will be positive. This is because urine tests detect the drug metabolites as they are being eliminated from the body, whereas hair tests detect metabolites that are stored within the hair follicle. These metabolites can be detected for a longer period of time.

A urine test can detect different metabolites for different lengths of time. The shortest window is 2-4 days after the use of amphetamines, cocaine, or opiates. The longest is for marijuana, which is 15-30 days depending on the amount and frequency of use. Drug metabolites can be detected in hair follicles for up to 90 days. This makes it a more accurate method for determining if a potential driver has used illicit drugs within a longer time frame. Trucking companies may choose to use hair testing in addition to DOT tests in order to further ensure that their drivers are drug-free.

Can Motor Carriers Perform Non-DOT Testing?

Trucking companies must follow the above urine testing procedures at a minimum. However, many motor carriers take further steps to ensure their drivers are drug-free by performing additional testing. This is allowed as long as the requirements from the DOT are met. You cannot use hair testing for drugs to replace any of the DOT tests, so you must use urinalysis as well at the specified times.

Another difference between non-DOT and DOT-required testing is that positive results from non-DOT tests are not reported. All urine test results are tracked by the FMCSA Clearinghouse and can be accessed and checked by other motor carriers who are considering hiring that driver. This makes it harder for drivers to conceal drug program violations. However, hair testing and other tests beyond DOT requirements are not a part of this system. They can be used internally for hiring decisions, but they are not shared with other companies and do not follow a driver even though these tests can assess drug use over a longer period of time.

Protect Your Drivers, Your Freight, and Your Company

A study by the Trucking Alliance in 2019 found that while only less than 1% of applicants to trucking companies failed urine drug tests, almost 9% either failed or refused a hair follicle test. This means that even if you are following the necessary steps to stay compliant with DOT regulations, it can be beneficial to invest in additional testing. HDS Safety Services can help you with both required and additional drug and alcohol testing.

To learn more about hair testing for drugs, contact us today.

Maintaining a drug-free workplace is essential to remain compliant with Department of Transportation (DOT) and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations. There are specific times when companies must complete drug and/or alcohol testing. One instance is if a supervisor has reasonable suspicion that a safety-sensitive worker is under the influence. Ensuring that your supervisors have proper training helps keep your fleet and the public safe. 

What is Reasonable Suspicion?

Reasonable suspicion is when a supervisor believes they have identified symptoms of drug or alcohol abuse in a fleet driver. A supervisor who requests a reasonable suspicion test must base this on their own “specific, contemporaneous, articulable” observations of a driver. They cannot rely on any third-party information. These observations can be related to speech, appearance, behavior, or body odor as long as they match the indications of drug/alcohol use that are covered in training. Only the actual supervisor of a driver can order a test. A qualified individual from another motor carrier that the driver interacts with may ask them to cease safety-sensitive duties and contact the driver’s supervisor. However, the FMCSA does not require this.

What is the Reasonable Suspicion Testing Process?

Reasonable suspicion testing is necessary when a supervisor observes signs of alcohol or controlled substance use by a safety-sensitive employee. After seeing these indications, the employee will need to submit to a drug and/or alcohol test. A qualified technician must complete this screening and if the employee tests positive, they must cease all safety-sensitive functions immediately until they complete the return-to-duty process. 

Why is Training Necessary?

The FMCSA requires anyone who supervises those who drive commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) to complete 120 minutes of reasonable suspicion training. This is included in Title 49 §382.603 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). The training includes 60 minutes covering signs of alcohol use and 60 minutes about the indications of controlled substance use. Without completing this necessary course, supervisors are not qualified to order testing of employees when they are displaying signs of intoxication on the job. This not only puts your motor carrier at risk of large fines. It also endangers your drivers and others on the road. 

Specific Requirements for Alcohol Testing

For controlled substances, withdrawal symptoms are valid for reasonable suspicion. However, this is not the case for alcohol. This is because alcohol use is acceptable for drivers so long as it is not in their system while operating a CMV. Comparatively, controlled substance use is strictly prohibited under all circumstances. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms do not indicate that the driver was using alcohol while performing safety-sensitive functions.  As a result, they cannot be used to justify testing. Supervisors must also order alcohol testing just before the start of duty, during the time the driver is on duty, or just after they go off duty. 

Comprehensive training for Your Supervisors

HDS Safety Services offers reasonable suspicion training both online and in-person. After completing this course, your supervisors will be certified by the DOT in Supervisor Reasonable Suspicion. Additionally, we offer other types of compliance training for supervisors and drivers. 

To learn more or to enroll in our reasonable suspicion training, contact us today.

With recent changes to federal and state regulations regarding cannabis, it can be confusing for employers who perform drug screening for employees. The Department of Transportation (DOT) has already issued a notice regarding “medical marijuana” use. This clarified that for safety-sensitive employees, a positive drug test result cannot be verified as negative based on a physician recommendation that a patient use “medical marijuana.” Recently, the department also clarified its guidelines for Cannabidiol (CBD) and drug tests. 

What is CBD?

CBD is one of the chemical compounds that is found in cannabis plants. The other major component is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is responsible for the major effects of marijuana. Unlike THC, CBD is not psychoactive, meaning it doesn’t result in a “high.” 

CBD and Hemp

You may also hear the term “hemp” as it relates to marijuana and CBD. There are two species of the cannabis plant: marijuana and hemp. Whereas marijuana has more THC than CBD, hemp has more CBD and very little THC. 

The Legality of CBD

The Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (Farm Bill) officially clarified the definition of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act so it does not include hemp-derived products with 0.3% THC or less. Any product with a higher level of THC, even if it is labeled as CBD, is a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act and is illegal at the federal level, regardless of whether it is legal for medical or recreational use in a specific state. 

CBD and Drug Tests for Safety-Sensitive Employees

DOT drug tests screen for marijuana, not CBD. These tests check for the presence of THC metabolites and any level over 50 ng/mL is a positive result. The presence of CBD is not tested. 

However, the DOT states that safety-sensitive employees should be cautious when deciding whether or not to use CBD. Labeling can be misleading and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not certify the amount of THC in these products. This means that even if an item claims to be THC-free, it may have enough of the compound to trigger a positive test result. 

What Motor Carriers Should Know

Trucking companies should be aware of the DOT guidelines regarding CBD and drug tests and advise their employees accordingly. It is also essential that your medical review officers (MROs) know that a drug test over the designated cut-off for THC metabolites cannot be verified as negative because the employee claims they used CBD. The DOT does not allow safety-sensitive workers to use marijuana under any circumstances. This means that “medical marijuana,” recreational use being legal in the state, or claims of CBD use, are not valid reasons to disregard a positive result. 

HDS Safety Services Can Manage Your Drug Testing Program

Maintaining a drug-free workplace helps you avoid expensive fines and helps keep your workers and the public safe. However, it can be difficult to keep track of the most recent changes to DOT regulations. HDS Safety Services stays up-to-date with the latest safety guidelines for motor carriers. This allows you to focus on managing your fleet while knowing that we are handling your drug testing or other safety management services.

Contact us today with any questions about CBD and drug tests or to inquire about our DOT compliance services.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is an agency within the United States Department of Transportation (DOT). The main goal of this agency is to improve the safety of the motor carrier industry in order to prevent commercial motor vehicle (CMV) related fatalities and injuries. 

More information about the FMCSA’s history:

Before the FMCSA

The Bureau of Motor Carriers released the first federal truck safety rules in 1936. This agency was a subdivision of the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC). This organization was a precursor to the FMCSA and was responsible for trucking industry safety regulations for three decades. 

In October of 1966, Congress established the DOT. This following a State of the Union speech by President Lyndon B. Johnson in January of that year when he indicated his intentions to create the agency. His decision was influenced in large part by the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) and its head Najeeb Halaby. This is because Halaby recommended in a letter to the president that the government establish an agency to oversee the various groups that regulated transportation in the United States. 

The establishment of the DOT in 1966 also transferred the ICC’s regulatory authority over truck and bus safety to this new department. Congress delegated these responsibilities to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). This organization originally had three bureaus. These were the Bureau of Motor Carriers, the Bureau of Public Roads, and the National Highway Safety Bureau. This last bureau later became the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA).

Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999

Congress established the FMCSA as a separate agency within the DOT beginning on January 1, 2000. This was part of the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999. Prior to the passing of the bill, the duties of the FMCSA were performed by the Office of Motor Carrier Safety (OMCS), which was a division of the FHWA. Under this law, the President appoints the Administrator of the FMCSA with the approval of the Senate.

The FMCSA Today

The FMCSA continues to promote safety and works to prevent commercial motor vehicle accidents. One of the newest initiatives from the agency was the FMCSA Clearinghouse, a system that tracks commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders’ drug and alcohol testing program violations.

DOT and FMCSA Compliance

There are a large number of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) that motor carriers must follow. These relate to hours of service (HOS), drug and alcohol testing, CDL driver qualifications, and other areas of operation. Failure to comply with these rules can result in large fines and can compromise the safety of not only CMV drivers, but also others on the roads. 

Your Partner in Compliance

With so many regulations to keep track of, it can be invaluable to have someone on your side to help you stay compliant. At HDS Safety Services we train drivers and administrators, provide drug and alcohol testing services, audit electronic logging device (ELD) records, and much more. 

Contact us today to learn more about our DOT and FMCSA compliance services.

In 1991, the United States Congress passed the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act. This established drug and alcohol testing guidelines for companies and agencies that the Department of Transportation (DOT) governs. It is important for all motor carriers to follow DOT and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) guidelines in order to stay compliant and to keep employees and others on the road safe.

Here is what you should know about DOT-required testing:

What is a Safety-Sensitive Employee?

The DOT and FMCSA require certain types of drug and alcohol testing for safety-sensitive employees. These are individuals who have jobs that can impact their own safety as well as the safety of the larger public. For motor carriers, this includes anyone who operates a commercial vehicle. An employee is designated as safety-sensitive based on the tasks they perform rather than based on their job title.

Prohibited Conduct for Alcohol

FMCSA regulations outline alcohol violations for safety-sensitive employees. Subpart B of Part 383 of federal transportation regulations lists types of prohibited conduct.

These include:

Having an Alcohol Concentration Over 0.02

Safety-sensitive employees may not report for duty if they have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.02 or higher.

Refusal of Alcohol Testing

Refusing to submit to an alcohol test or controlled substance test is a form of prohibited conduct.

How a DOT Alcohol Test Works

A Screening Test Technician (STT) or a Blood Alcohol Technician (BAT) conducts DOT alcohol tests using an Evidential Breath Testing (EBT) device, more commonly known as a breathalyzer. The STT or BAT establishes a private area for employee testing and will show each employee their results. If their BAC is above a 0.02, then it is considered a positive test result. In this case, the STT or BAT must perform a second test in 15-30 minutes to rule out a false positive. Any employee with a positive alcohol test result will need to cease safety-sensitive functions for 24 hours. They will also need to complete the return-to-duty process.

DOT-Required Alcohol Testing

DOT regulations for when to test for alcohol use are very similar to their guidelines for drug testing. The main difference is pre-employment testing. Whereas drug testing is always necessary before the start of employment, the DOT does not require pre-employment alcohol tests. However, motor carriers may choose to test for alcohol use during the pre-employment process.

The DOT and FMCSA require alcohol tests at the following times: 

Reasonable Suspicion

If a supervisor sees indications of alcohol use by a safety-sensitive employee, then they may initiate reasonable suspicion testing. A supervisor must undergo two hours of training in order to identify these signs of drug use or alcohol abuse by their employees.

Random Alcohol Testing

Motor carriers must perform random drug and alcohol tests. Companies must use a truly random process to meet DOT requirements and employees must be informed just before testing, leaving only enough time to stop safety-sensitive functions and report to the testing location.

Post-Accident Testing

After an accident while on duty, drivers must submit to drug and alcohol testing.


Following a drug or alcohol violation, employees will need to complete the return-to-duty process to resume safety-sensitive tasks.

Follow-Up Tests

After a violation, a substance abuse professional (SAP) will determine a schedule for follow-up drug or alcohol tests. This can include additional tests beyond what is necessary for the return-to-duty process.

We Can Help You Stay Compliant With alcohol Testing

A DOT-compliant drug and alcohol testing program is essential for any motor carrier. HDS Safety Services operates one of the largest random testing consortiums in Arizona. We can help ensure that you are compliant with all DOT and FMCSA regulations.

Contact us today to learn more about our drug and alcohol testing services.