Many motor carriers today are asking what CSA (Comprehensive Safety Analysis) 2010 means to their organizations. While the fundamental safety requirements for motor carriers and drivers have not altered appreciably under CSA 2010, the method for evaluating and rating how a company meets those requirements has changed dramatically.
As published on the FMCSA’s website, the Safety Measurement System (SMS) within CSA 2010 is designed to “quantify the on-road safety performance of carriers and drivers to identify candidates for interventions, to determine the specific safety problems exhibited by a carrier or driver, and to monitor whether safety problems are improving or worsening .”
In other words, the evaluation system has moved from what might be called an “occurrence-based” model wherein actions were taken primarily after problems had arisen, to a “risk-based” model designed to prevent safety issues before they happen.
This risk-based model also means identifying the motor carriers and drivers most likely to experience safety problems based on a range of behavior analysis and safety improvement categories called BASICs. BASICs cover areas such as unsafe driving, fatigued driving and hours of service, vehicle maintenance, cargo-related issues, crash indicators and, most important for purposes of this article, driver fitness and controlled substance/alcohol issues. These latter categories are uniquely important because, of the eleven “red flag” violations identified by the SMS, nine fall within the areas of drug and health screening.
Each motor carrier and driver receives a rating based on the SMS BASICs derived from the number of adverse safety events, the severity of the violations and when the adverse events occurred, with more recent events being weighted most heavily. While the driver information remains confidential, the rating of the motor carrier is public. Obviously the greatest impact of receiving a high risk rating is the fact that a carrier stands in danger of safety violations that can impact both the public and the company.
But such a rating can also increase insurance and legal costs, impact union contracts, create public relations issues, increase the risk of litigation, reduce demand and impact buyer decisions. It can also result in more frequent roadside inspections and on-site investigations. Avoiding high risk status is clearly very desirable and one arena in which a few simple decisions can have a huge influence on a company’s risk factors is in drug and health screening.
Drug and Health Screening Best Practices
Drug and health screening programs are overseen by the Department of Transportation (DOT). Employees mandated for testing, including CDLs, must receive a pre-employment drug test, be subject to a three-year drug and alcohol violation history, and submit to random drug and alcohol testing throughout employment. They must also receive a health certification. Motor carriers who do not conduct these screenings and provide required documentation are considered non-compliant and subject to fines beginning at $500 per day for failures of record-keeping and $5,000 for knowingly falsifying records. And now, of course, lack of compliance will impact the motor carrier’s SMS rating.
Perhaps the most important fact for motor carriers to understand with regard to drug and health screening is that any failure, whether it be an error in the medical examination, the record-keeping, or the information provided by a driver, is considered the responsibility of the motor carrier. The motor carrier is ultimately accountable for compliance and for setting up a process that follows DOT 49 CFR Part 40 and 49 CFR 391.41. requirements. As a result, whether the company partners with a third-party screening provider or chooses to set up its own testing program, the motor carrier must remain involved and vigilant to ensure that all regulations are being met.
Following are some of the areas motor carriers should focus on when developing a best-practices drug and health screening program:
The Drug/Alcohol Testing Facilities –The collection facility, whether set up by the motor carrier or the testing agent, must meet DOT requirements with regard to the physical site and testing personnel. DOT 49 CFR Part 40 Subparts C & D outline these requirements clearly, including the need for privacy for the person being tested as well as security of the test sample.
The latter may include securing of any potential adulterants such as water faucets, soap dispensers, etc., as well as continuous observation of the sample until it is placed into tamper-proof containers. Collection personnel must undergo qualification training, whether for urine sampling or breath alcohol testing, and perform an initial proficiency demonstration as well as refresher trainings and error correction trainings. All training and demonstrations must be documented. For most motor carriers, having multiple collection sites, often in more than one state, is necessary. Appropriate standards and compliance must be maintained and regularly verified at all locations. Laboratories must be DHHS certified and do tests on appropriate DOT CCFs (custody and control forms).
Medical Review Officers – A key element of the DOT requirements for drug testing is the MRO (medical review officer), who acts as an independent “gatekeeper” and advocate for the accuracy and integrity of the drug testing process. The MRO also provides a quality assurance review of the process. An MRO must be a licensed physician within any state, must have clinical experience in controlled substance abuse disorders and be knowledgeable about issues relating to adulteration and substitution of medical samples.
The MRO should be thoroughly acquainted with all DOT regulations relating to drug and alcohol testing and receive qualification training and pass an examination by an MRO certification board. All DOT test results must be reviewed by a board-certified MRO. This officer’s responsibilities also include properly reporting results and maintaining complete records to use both for compliance and in the event of litigation. The MRO cannot be associated with any laboratory in a way that might constitute conflict of interest. The motor carrier should personally verify the qualifications of any MRO associated with the company’s program.
Handling of “Troubled” Test Results — In addition to instructions for the proper handling of negative test results, DOT 49 CFR Part 40 notes many specific requirements for the handling of “non-negative” drug test results. It is critical that motor carriers verify the proper handling of troubled tests, meaning those that have tested positive or are suspected of adulteration or substitution, to assure that they are treated appropriately. Methods for notifying the employee of a non-negative result and the circumstances under which a test result can be verified as positive without an employee interview are delineated in Part 40 and must be rigorously followed and documented.
Required Drug and Alcohol Tests – In addition to regulatory requirements that include obtaining three years of employment and driving history, the motor carrier should also perform a three-year drug/alcohol violation history search . The candidate is also required to undergo a pre-employment drug test from a collection facility meeting all the criteria described above.
Once employed, the driver will be subject to DOT-mandated random drug and alcohol screening performed by the carrier on a certain percentage of its drivers each year. Some carriers, going beyond the minimum, opt to perform testing quarterly or monthly. A random selection statistical report should be generated each year for compliance. Finally, post-accident drug and alcohol testing is required. In order to comply, motor carriers need to have access to emergency or post-accident service 24/7 to help determine if testing is required in a given incident. A means to set up an immediate test appointment or even mobile testing may be needed.
Health Screening – All drivers are required to receive medical certification that they are physically qualified. Requirements are stringent relating to many physical conditions that might impair driving ability as well as visual and hearing acuity. Some motor carriers may require additional qualifications such as a functional capacity test that shows a driver’s ability to perform the work without injury.
The medical examination must be performed by a licensed medical examiner who is knowledgeable regarding the specific physical and mental demands associated with operating a commercial motor vehicle as well as the medical advisory criteria prepared by the FMCSA. The exam must be performed according to the 49 CFR 391.41 guidelines and a report on the appropriate form must be completed and a copy retained at the physician’s office.
Two things are clear from this discussion. Establishing an effective drug and health screening program can have a strong positive effect on a motor carrier’s CSA 2010 SMS scores, and setting up such a program must be carefully considered and constantly monitored. When establishing a drug and health screening program, motor carriers should:
•Establish a written drug and medical testing policy
•Review certifications and qualifications of collection sites and lab facilities and personnel
•Interview medical review officers
•Consider the level of automation available in the testing procedures as a method of enhancing efficiency and reducing hiring time
•Ascertain reporting and documentation procedures are aligned with DOT regulations
•Consider the benefits of integration of drug and health testing with other background screening procedures to increase accuracy and reduce personnel time
•Partner only with those professionals that completely grasp that the motor carrier is responsible for complying with applicable DOT regulations
A reputable third-party drug and health screening provider knowledgeable in DOT regulations can assist in establishing and maintaining a drug and health screening program that complies with applicable regulations, as well as offer additional services that allow the carrier to go beyond the minimum requirements. Enacting such a drug and health screening program will not only help assure excellent SMS scores, but also improve the overall safety and performance of the motor carrier and its drivers.