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April 24, 2018

FMCSA & FAA Drug Programs

Claudia Culmone

Drug programs: FMCSA vs. FAA, part 1

Complying with the guidelines of more than one U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) agency is challenging, especially when it concerns drug testing. How do you know if you need multiple drug programs? When should employees be tested? What should you do if you have employees who fall under more than one DOT agency? In our first of two blogs, we discuss when a drug program is needed, testing requirements, and the differences between drug programs for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Do I need a drug program?

The FMCSA states that anyone who assigns a person to drive a commercial motor vehicle, leases or owns a commercial motor vehicle, or holds a commercial driver’s license must be part of a DOT-regulated drug program. There are exceptions. Individual state or local laws may establish exemptions for farmers driving farm vehicles, snow and ice removal drivers, operators of emergency response vehicles, and/or firefighters. Military personnel are also exempt.

In aviation, the requirement to have an FAA Anti-Drug and Alcohol Misuse Prevention Program depends on the type of operation. For instance, companies that hold a part 119 certificate and operate under part 121 or 135 must sign an agreement called the Anti-Drug and Alcohol Misuse Prevention Program Operations Specification (OpSpec), also referred to as the FAA Form A449. This agreement establishes that the operator will adhere to FAA rules and regulations concerning drug and alcohol testing. For more information on the requirements each aviation operator type must abide by, please refer to the FAA guide on starting a drug and alcohol testing program.

The FAA Anti-Drug and Alcohol Misuse Prevention Program covers all safety-sensitive duties performed by these specific operators. These duties are included in the following safety-sensitive functions: pilots, flight attendants, flight instruction duties, aircraft dispatcher duties, aircraft maintenance and preventive maintenance duties, ground security coordinator duties, aviation screening duties, air traffic control duties. operations control specialist duties and mechanics. Employees performing these safety-sensitive functions must adhere to this program, regardless of whether they are full-time, part-time, temporary, contract or intermittent.

It should be noted that Part 145 repair stations providing contract services to a regulated company also need an FAA drug program. The repair station will have to set up its own drug and alcohol program unless the regulated client is willing to add the repair station’s employees to its program.

When do I need to test an employee?

Whether a company has an FMCSA or FAA drug program, or both, the company is required to conduct drug testing for the following: pre-employment, random testing, post-accident, reasonable cause/suspicion, return to duty and follow up testing.

Please note, there are differences. For example, FMCSA drivers are required to take a drug test after an accident only with the following situations:

  • If the accident resulted in a fatality
  • If someone was injured and had to be taken to a facility for medical treatment, and the CDL driver was issued a citation
  • If any vehicle had to be towed from the accident scene and the CDL driver was cited for the accident

For the FAA, testing is conducted if the aircraft has been substantially damaged or someone suffered serious injury. The definition of an accident is an event that occurs after someone boards the aircraft for a flight and up to the moment when all people have left the aircraft after the flight. Additionally, if the evidence at the time indicates that the employee was not at fault for the accident, the employer can choose not to administer a post-accident drug test. Any test that is given, must be done so within 32 hours of the accident.

Furthermore, with an FAA or FMCSA Anti-Drug and Alcohol Misuse Prevention Program, employers are required to conduct a pre-employment test on an employee before an employee is transferred from a non-safety-sensitive role to a role that performs safety-sensitive duties. In aviation, in accordance with 14 C.F.R. § 120.109, a previous pre-employment test result for FMCSA or FAA may be used to satisfy this requirement as long as the test was taken 180 days or less, prior to the transfer.

Where can I get help with managing my Anti-Drug and Alcohol Misuse Prevention Program(s)?

What might seem as a simple “oversight” in your Anti-Drug and Alcohol Misuse Prevention Program management can expose your company to citations and fines.

NATA Compliance Services is an experienced Third Party Administrator (TPA) that helps set up your Anti-Drug and Alcohol Misuse Prevention Program by coordinating your testing needs, offering policy and procedure assistance, providing document management tools and assisting you in audit preparation. To learn more, please contact us.

Keep watch for part 2 of this series. We’ll discuss employees who fall under more than one DOT agency and how random testing pools work.

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