Consequences For a Drug Test Refusal

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.

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