What Do I Do With a Positive Driver?

From a DOT regulatory standpoint, positive drivers are not something to take lightly. DOT takes these rules very seriously, and will fine a company several thousands of dollars if every ‘I’ is not dotted, and ‘T’ crossed. While they may take it a little too far, from a safety standpoint, you want ensure your employees are not using. If they are, it’s just a matter of time before they hurt themselves, or worse, somebody else.

You have five types of DOT drug tests: pre-employment, random, post-accident, reasonable suspicion, and return-to-duty. The most common test a driver fails is the pre-employment test. You may think, ‘why on earth would a driver apply for a job if he’s on drugs, and he knows he’s going to be drug tested?” The real question is, “why wouldn’t he??” After all, it costs him nothing. It may have been two weeks since he smoked his last joint, so he thinks he might pass. If he fails, oh well, on to the next job.

This type of positive is easy to handle, simply do not hire the driver. This is why you never, ever, put a new driver behind the wheel until you get his pre-employment drug test results back; in case he tests positive.

The more complicated scenario is when a driver fails a random test. If a driver flunks a random test, the Medical Review Officer (MRO) will notify you, probably with the telephone call, a week or so after the original test was taken. A phone call is not guaranteed, however, sometimes they send the results via fax or email. Once you receive the results, you are responsible for immediately removing that driver from all ‘safety-sensitive’ functions. The definition of ‘safety-sensitive functions’ includes driving the truck, fixing the truck, loading the truck, or even riding in the truck.

DOT expects you to act immediately. When they are conducting their audits, they will find out if you had any positive tests, determine the time you were notified, and then search your time records, dispatch sheets, and logbooks to determine how long a driver drove after you were notified. If it is more than an hour or two, they will likely nail you for using a positive driver.

You must use your cellphone and get the driver in question out of the truck immediately. You need to have that driver park his vehicle, then get another driver to take the truck. Do not let the positive driver ride in the truck.

Do not ignore a positive test result! I have seen this happen time and time again, a driver fails a test, and the carrier just keeps on dispatching him. Drivers aren’t that hard to find, get a positive driver out of the truck now!

Now that you have removed a positive driver from duty, what do you? The simple answer is, ‘fire him’, but things are not always that simple. Perhaps he is a long-time, loyal employee, and you want to give him a second chance. When making the decision on whether or not to keep a positive driver, some questions which should influence your decision are: What type of drug did he test positive? Was he using it on the job or while off-duty? Was it occasional or regular usage? How valuable is this employee?

Should you determine that you want to keep the driver, he must go through the Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) process to re-qualify as a legal, CDL driver. He must complete the SAP process exactly and completely, otherwise he will still be viewed as a positive driver by DOT.

When this rare circumstance does happen, if you don’t remember exactly what to do, call an expert, like Arnold Safety Consulting, for help!


Eric Arnold is a Former Enforcement Agent with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and a leading expert on USDOT compliance for small businesses. Do you have a question for Eric Arnold? Email him at eric@arnoldsafety.com.

Arnold Safety simplifies D.O.T. Compliance for commercial vehicle operators. Get Eric Arnold’s USDOT Compliance Guide, DVD, & Regulations at ArnoldSafety.Com.

Learn more about Arnold Safety compliance consulting services at ArnoldSafety.Com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *