Splitting the difference in drug and alcohol testing

When you have drivers operating commercial vehicles into the United States, you’re likely aware by now that they must be qualified according to U.S. regulations. If they’re also operating certain types of commercial motor vehicles defined in the U.S. regulations, these drivers are also subject to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA’s) Part 382 and Part 40 drug and alcohol testing regulations.

(Photo: istock)

You need to be sure they meet U.S. regulations for both driver qualification and drug and alcohol testing before operating on U.S. roadways. But what should you do if you have some drivers that stay in Canada and some that operate in both Canada and the United States?

Here are a few pointers:

Qualify ahead of time

If you intend for a driver to operate mostly in Canada, but operate into the United States at a moment’s notice, you can qualify the driver ahead of time. This works especially well for backup drivers. You’ll need to ensure your driver has a U.S.-compliant driver qualification file.

Part of your qualification process includes ensuring your driver is medically qualified to operate into the United States. If your driver has “Code W” on his or her license, he or she is not medically qualified to operate into the United States.

…and test ahead of time

You’ll also need to make sure the driver is part of your U.S.-compliant drug and alcohol testing program, if he or she will be operating qualifying types of vehicles into the United States (vehicles defined in Section 383.5).

Note that this means you’ll need to complete some tasks ahead of time, such as:

  • Conducting pre-employment tests;
  • Providing the driver with your U.S. DOT drug and alcohol testing policy;
  • Placing the driver in your U.S. DOT random drug testing pool, and;
  • Ensuring your CDL Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse pre-employment queries and/or annual queries have been completed.

In addition, you must pursue your driver’s drug and alcohol testing history from all previous U.S. DOT-regulated employers (Canada or U.S.) that employed the driver within the previous three years in a safety-sensitive position that required alcohol and drug testing specified by the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, Title 49, Part 40. In most instances, this information is captured through the safety performance history inquiry.

Keep them separated

If your pool of drivers consists of Canada-only drivers and drivers that operate in both Canada and the United States, make sure your U.S. drug and alcohol testing program includes only those drivers operating into the United States. The FMCSA does not have jurisdiction over your Canada-only drivers.

Be prepared to prove it

If you have drivers that are Canada-only, be sure that you have documentation to prove it in the event of an FMCSA compliance review. You’ll first want to ensure your MCS-150 is up to date and shows an accurate count of only the drivers you have operating into the United States. Other documentation could include dispatch records or your drivers’ records of duty status (such as ELD or time records) to show certain drivers operate Canada-only or cross-border.

Heather Ness is the editor of transport operations at J.J.Keller and Associates. Contact her at transporteditors@jjkeller.com.

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