You get the news: One of your drivers was in an accident. Unless this is something you deal with frequently, you probably get a little anxious about making sure you respond appropriately.

One of the questions I see quite often deals with when to conduct Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) post-accident drug and alcohol testing under Part 382. Although the regulations on post-accident testing haven’t changed in decades, there still seems to be confusion about when to test, and we sometimes get questions asking something along the lines of, “We should’ve done a post-accident test and didn’t. What should we do now?”

If you’ve ever been unsure of when to conduct DOT post-accident testing please reference the chart. 

Contrary to what some motor carriers believe, you cannot DOT test drivers who are involved in an accident “just in case.” In order to DOT drug and alcohol test a driver, certain criteria must be met. First of all, the driver must be operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) that requires a commercial driver’s license (CDL) at the time of the accident.

If the driver holds a CDL but is not driving a vehicle that requires a CDL, the accident is not covered by Part 382. Once that criteria is met, you need to know under what circumstances to send your driver for DOT drug and/or alcohol testing. The included chart details when testing is required and the maximum time frames during which testing can occur, but testing should be conducted as soon as practicable after the accident.

If these criteria are not met, then you cannot DOT drug or alcohol test a driver after an accident.

What if you realize after 8 or 32 hours that you should have conducted DOT post-accident alcohol and drug testing, but you didn’t?

There’s no way around it: Failing to conduct post-accident testing when required to by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) is a violation, and if you’re audited, you could be fined.  So, what should you do if you realize — too late — that one of your drivers should have been tested after an accident?

Don’t make things worse. First of all, do NOT send the driver for testing past the 8- and 32-hour testing windows. This will only compound the problem and add another violation to your list of offenses. Instead, document why the driver wasn’t tested. Own up to your mistake and explain how the error occurred.

Document the mistake and a path forward. Recognizing your error doesn’t matter if you don’t take steps to prevent it from happening again. Identify the root cause of the problem and come up with a plan to fix it. Perhaps your dispatchers need better training so that they know what questions to ask a driver after an accident. Maybe you need to contract with a collection site that will perform testing outside of normal business hours or provides mobile testing services. Or maybe you just didn’t understand the regulation correctly and you need to brush up on the FMCSRs. Whatever the problem, detail — in writing — what you will do to prevent it from happening again.

Follow your plan and make improvements. Documenting the mistake and laying out a plan for improvement won’t absolve you of the violation, but it will help you demonstrate to an auditor that you’ve made a good-faith effort to prevent the mistake from recurring. Such documentation, especially if you can demonstrate that you haven’t made the same mistake since, may result in a lower fine.

Trying to hide a violation in the hopes that an auditor will miss it is not a winning strategy: At best, the auditor will think you don’t understand the regulations, and at worse, the auditor may suspect deceit and will put your records under more intense scrutiny.

What are the consequences of failing to conduct DOT post-accident testing?

In addition to receiving a financial penalty if failure to conduct DOT post-accident testing is discovered during an audit, your motor carrier’s safety rating may be affected if the auditor finds a pattern of failing to post-accident test.

Key to remember: Know when and when not to conduct DOT post-accident testing on drivers and if you make a mistake, document it so you can show a good-faith effort to fix the problem in the case of an audit.

Header Photo by Sander Yigin on Unsplash

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