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6.5.1 Implementing a Drug and Alcohol Program

Motor carriers must take steps to ensure their drivers are enrolled in a U.S. DOT drug and alcohol program; non-compliance could lead to costly fines. FMCSA and the Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy Compliance (ODAPC) provide resources to help carriers learn more about training and testing. For more information, see U.S. DOT Drug and Alcohol Resources for Employers, U.S. DOT Drug and Alcohol Supervisor Training Guidance, and FMCSA Employers Resources and Downloads.

Alcohol is the intoxicating agent in beverage alcohol, ethyl alcohol, or other low molecular weight alcohols including methyl and isopropyl alcohol.

Controlled substances are considered to be any of the drugs and other substances listed in 21 CFR 1308.11–1308.15. See 49 CFR 382.107 for a list of full definitions, and 49 CFR 40.85 for a list of the controlled substances that labs test for.


Employers and employees can quickly find out if they are required to comply with U.S. DOT drug and alcohol testing regulations by using the “Am I Covered?” decision tree at In general, controlled substances and alcohol use and testing regulations apply to the following:

  • All service agents, employers, and employees who operate a CMV in any State and are subject to U.S. Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) requirements, Licencia Federal de Conductor (Mexico) requirements, or CDL requirements of the Canadian National Safety Code.
  • An employer who employs himself/herself as a driver must comply with both employer and driver requirements.
  • An employer who employs only himself/herself as a driver shall implement a random alcohol and controlled substances testing program with two or more covered employees in a random testing selection pool or consortium.

Exceptions to 49 CFR 382 include:

  • Drivers required to comply with the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) alcohol and drug testing (49 CFR 655).
  • Drivers exempt from CDL requirements by their issuing State.
  • Active duty military personnel.
  • Drivers who operate ‘covered farm vehicles’ as defined in 49 CFR 390.5T.

See 49 CFR 382.103 for a full list of exceptions.

The FMCSA Commercial Driver's License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse

The FMCSA Commercial Driver’s License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse (Clearinghouse) is an online database that retains information about violations of the FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Testing Program incurred by holders of commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs) and commercial learner’s permits (CLPs). This information can be accessed by employers of CDL drivers to ensure that all employees entrusted with safety-sensitive functions, including operating a CMV, are not prohibited from doing so due to a drug and alcohol program violation.   

As an employer of CDL drivers, you must: 

  • Register for the Clearinghouse. 

  • Conduct a query of the Clearinghouse when hiring any employee who will perform a safety-sensitive function, including operating a CMV, to ensure they are not prohibited from doing so. 

  • Conduct an annual query of every CDL driver you employ to ensure they are not prohibited from performing safety-sensitive functions. 

  • Report drug and alcohol program violations you become aware of—this includes positive drug and alcohol tests, refusals to take a drug or alcohol test, and actual knowledge of a violation.  

See 49 CFR 382 Subpart G for a full list of employer requirements. You can also learn more about how employers of CDL drivers are required to use the Clearinghouse in the Clearinghouse Learning Center.

Using Service Agents

A service agent helps to implement the U.S. DOT/FMCSA drug and alcohol testing regulations. The agent cannot be an employee of the motor carrier. Service agent requirements are defined by 49 CFR 40. Also, see What are Service Agents?

The service agent can coordinate the employer’s testing services and be used to administer the employer’s U.S. DOT drug and alcohol testing program. If you are an owner–operator, you must use a service agent to manage your program. 

An employer may also work with a service agent to fulfill their querying and violation reporting requirements in the Clearinghouse. If you are an owner-operator, you must select a service agent (referred to as a consortium/third-party administrator or C/TPA) and designate them in the Clearinghouse. Working with a service agent to help you perform random selections for drug and alcohol testing does not meet this requirement.

Note: Use of service agents does not relieve employers of the responsibility to comply with all applicable requirements of 49 CFR Parts 40 and 382.

Recordkeeping Requirements

Employers must maintain records of alcohol and drug misuse prevention programs in a secure location with controlled access. See 49 CFR 382.401.

  • Employers must make records available within two business days at the principal place of business to any authorized FMCSA representative requesting records. See 49 CFR 382.405.
  • Records that are required to be prepared must be retained. See 49 CFR 382.401 for the minimum retention of each record type.
  • When requested by authorized officials, employers are required to prepare and maintain a summary of the results of its alcohol and controlled substances testing programs performed under this part during the previous calendar year. In addition, if notified during the month of January of a request to report the annual calendar year summary information, you must submit this report by March 15. See 49 CFR 382.403, as well as MIS survey filling instructions.
  • As of January 6, 2020, employers are required to conduct both electronic queries in the Clearinghouse and traditional manual inquiries with previous employers to meet the three-year timeframe required by 49 CFR 391.23 (See section 6.5.2 Collecting Driver Drug and Alcohol Records). This will be required until January 6, 2023, at which point a query of the Clearinghouse will satisfy this requirement. A history of an employer’s full and limited queries, including those conducted by a designated C/TPA, is maintained in the Clearinghouse. Employers may choose to maintain separate copies in addition to these Clearinghouse records. The Clearinghouse also contains records of the driver’s response to consent requests for any full queries conducted or initiated. Employers must retain records of drivers’ limited consent for 3 years. This does not have to be retained in the driver qualification file, but the employer must be able to provide evidence upon request.

Employer and Driver Education

Employers are required to promote and make known to each employee the policies and procedures on the misuse of drugs and alcohol. A policy that meets the requirements of the regulations is the foundation of an effective drug and alcohol program. Every person involved in the program should be familiar with the policy in order to avoid compliance problems. Every motor carrier must provide each of its employees with educational materials that explain the drug and alcohol use and testing regulations. See 49 CFR 382.601 for a full list of content. Also, see FMCSA’s Overview of Drug and Alcohol Rules and Resources for Employees.

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