When a DOT drug test is requested for cause, such as a crash or reasonable suspicion, a motor carrier may not receive the result for several days. Many carriers would rather not risk the driver operating their vehicle pending an official result.
Consider the following frequently asked questions regarding options when waiting for test results.
What is a Stand-Down Waiver?
Standing down a driver removes them from safety-sensitive functions based on the lab’s initial result and before an official medical review officer (MRO) result. It requires a waiver issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
The carrier will have to demonstrate a need to know the lab result based on the company's high number of failed drug tests over the past two years.
Without a stand-down waiver, an official drug test result is not provided until after the MRO completes the verification process.
The stand-down provision only addresses temporary removal from a safety-sensitive function, not other duties, and it cannot impact pay and benefits. If the MRO verifies the test as negative or cancels it, the driver must be returned to safety-sensitive duties and suffer no adverse actions.
Can We Remove the Driver from Duty Without a Stand-Down Waiver?
Yes. A motor carrier’s Department of Transportation (DOT) drug and alcohol policy may allow for removing a driver from safety-sensitive functions without a waiver while waiting on the MRO’s results.
There is no inside knowledge of positive lab results. The driver must be made aware of the policy, and it must be enforced consistently.
Do We Have to Pay Drivers if We Remove Them from Driving?
When removing the driver from safety-sensitive functions based on policy, a carrier does not generally need to pay drivers for any hours not worked. This includes when waiting for a test result.
Time spent off duty while waiting for a drug test result would usually be unpaid.
A best practice is to compensate the driver for what would have been scheduled hours if the test is negative. Another best practice option is to place the driver in a non-safety-sensitive position while waiting for the result. The driver would be paid for the time worked.
The motor carrier may need to refer to collective bargaining or other agreements regarding the pay issue.
How are Inadequate Specimens Handled?
When a driver cannot provide an adequate specimen, the driver is given five days to provide information from a doctor that there was a legitimate medical explanation. During those five days, there is no official drug or alcohol test result.
If the driver fails to pursue a medical exam or the doctor’s findings do not substantiate a reason for the inadequate sample, the test result is a refusal to test.
The motor carrier’s policy should address how these five days are handled, just as it would a period waiting on a lab analysis and MRO result.
What Happens When the Driver Requests a Split Specimen?
A driver who fails a drug test may request a split specimen test to prove their innocence. The other half of a drug test specimen is sent to a different lab for processing.
The MRO, however, does not delay the official test result of the primary specimen result, and it is communicated to the employer.
According to §40.213, the motor carrier must act on the initial result until proven otherwise. The driver must be removed from safety-sensitive functions and provided with a list of substance abuse professionals. The MRO reports the initial failed drug test to the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, and the driver remains in a prohibited status unless the second test proves their innocence.
Key to Remember
The driver’s job duties (if any) pending a drug test result are at the motor carrier’s discretion. However, the motor carrier’s actions must be addressed within their DOT testing policy and identified as their independent authority.