DOT Reasonable Suspicion Testing: More than Meets the Eye
The idea of a Reasonable Suspicion test sounds simple – someone suspects an employee of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol and orders a test. In fact, there are quite a few rules that a company must follow to comply with DOT regulations for a Reasonable Suspicion test. The specific rules that companies must follow are found in each operating agency’s regulations. Because the trucking industry accounts for the bulk of DOT testing, we’ll look at Federal Motor Carrier Safety Agency rules found in 49 Part 382.307.
First of all, the observation of the suspicious behavior must be made at the time of, immediately prior to, or immediately after performing safety-sensitive duties.
What are safety-sensitive duties for FMCSA? The regulations define “safety sensitive” duties here. These duties include waiting to be dispatched, inspecting and servicing equipment, loading and unloading, and “remaining in readiness to operate the vehicle.”
If a suspicious behavior is observed when an employee is performing job duties that are not considered safety sensitive duties, the test cannot be a DOT test. However, if the company’s policy allows, it may be conducted as a non-DOT test.
The observation must be made by a supervisor, and the supervisor must have received at least one hour of training in alcohol misuse and one hour of training in controlled substance use.
A report of suspicious behavior from someone other than a supervisor, or from a supervisor who has not received the required training, does not meet the requirements of a DOT test.
If the employee is suspected of being under the influence of alcohol, the reasonable suspicion test must be administered within two hours. If not, the company must report the reason for the delay. If the alcohol test is not completed after eight hours the company will cease attempts to complete the test, and will file a report explaining the reasons for not testing.
A company may not take action against an employee observed for reasonable suspicion without an alcohol test to substantiate the report.
If a company cannot complete the alcohol test within eight hours, they can take no disciplinary action against the employee based solely upon the reasonable suspicion observations.