After completion of DOT/FMCSA Supervisor Training on Reasonable Suspicion you may use the following common questions and answers as a basis for group discussion.
Note: These questions cover both reasonable suspicion drug and alcohol testing and testing in general. Suggested length – 10 minutes.
Q. What is the objective of the FMCSA’s workplace anti-drug and alcohol program as a whole?
Isn’t the Federal government infringing on the private lives of its employees?
A. The intent of this drug and alcohol testing program is not to control private lives of
employees. The primary concern is to protect the safety of employees, passengers,
and the public.
Q. If drug/alcohol dependency is considered a disease, why is the FMCSA taking a disciplinary
A. Illegal drug use and alcohol misuse is not an excuse for unacceptable performance.
The focus is on safety.
Q. Why are certain employees being singled out in the anti-drug/alcohol program?
A. Employees who perform safety–sensitive functions are responsible not only for their
own personal well-being, but that of their colleagues and the public. Hence, this program
focuses on those employees.
Q. In general, when would a supervisor require an employee to undergo a reasonable-suspicion
A. Examples include, but are not limited to overt signs or symptoms of drug use or
alcohol misuse or other behavior patterns that are consistent with prohibited drug
use, or alcohol misuse.
Q. What are the specific prohibitions related to an employee’s use of illegal drugs and alcohol?
A. Under FMCSA regulations, an employee must not:
Alcohol: Consume alcohol while performing a safety-sensitive function, four (4) hours prior
to performing the function and up to eight (8) hours following an accident or until the
employee undergoes a post–accident test, whichever occurs first.
Drugs: Ingest illegal drugs at any time.
Q. Can an employee be terminated based on a positive test result?
A. Perhaps, but this is neither mandated nor regulated by the FMCSA. Individual
employers’ policies determine if an employee can be terminated after receiving a positive
Q. What safeguards will be provided to prevent supervisors from using reasonable-suspicion
testing as an excuse for witch hunts or vendettas?
A. The regulations requires that a reasonable suspicion referral must be based on
a trained supervisor’s (or company official’s) specific, contemporaneous, articulable
observation concerning the appearance, behavior, speech, or body odor of the person for
whom the referral is made. Supervisors must receive at least 120 minutes of training and
should be evaluated on their performance of that particular supervisory function.
Q. Is it necessary (and if so, how) for a supervisor to have a second supervisor confirm his/her
assessment of possible drug/alcohol abuse by an employee (as a self–check), before
confidentially verbalizing their request to the employee
A. Only one trained supervisor’s opinion is necessary to require a reasonable suspicion
test. However, the supervisor’s decision should pass the “reasonable and prudent” rule of
thumb. The “reasonable and prudent” rule of thumb is a cognitive judgment call that
requires the supervisor to 1) assess the facts, signs and circumstances for which the
reasonable suspicion is being determined, AND 2) cognitively deduce that a similarly
trained and experienced supervisor (having observed the same facts, signs and
circumstances) could have reached the same conclusion.
Q. Will employees know which supervisors have made past referrals and tend to being in
A. Supervisors directly responsible for a decision to conduct a reasonable suspicion test
must respect an individual’s dignity, and as a matter of policy are required to keep
that information confidential.
Q. If an employee is showing signs and symptoms of being under the influence of drugs or
alcohol, can the test be done quickly?
A. Yes. Every effort will be made to conduct the test immediately.
Q. What if an employee refuses to take a drug and/or alcohol test?
A. Denial should be an expected reaction; however refusal to a test is tantamount to a
positive test result.
Q. Does a supervisor have to inform the employee of their rights, and the testing process?
A. Employees should already be aware of their rights. Under the FMCSA drug and alcohol
rule (§ 382.601) each employer shall provide educational materials that explain the
requirements of this part and the employer’s policies and procedures with respect to
meeting these requirements. The employer shall ensure that a copy of these materials is
distributed to each driver prior to the start of alcohol and controlled substances testing
under this part and to each driver subsequently hired or transferred into a position
requiring driving a commercial motor vehicle.
Q. Are supervisors required to collect test specimens, or perform any of the tests?
A. No. The regulations prohibit a supervisor who is the direct supervisor of the employee
from conducting the breath test and/or collecting urine specimens.
Q. What if the employee was taking prescription drugs and had to take a drug test for reasonable suspicion?
A. Employees are given the opportunity to list prescription medications they are taking on
their copy of the Custody and Control Form. This information is not provided on any other
copy of the form.
Q. Can supervisors make reasonable suspicion referrals of other supervisors?
A. Yes. Covered employees include supervisors if they perform a safety-sensitive function.
Q. Can a supervisor be held liable for defamation of an individual’s character especially if the
test results are negative?
A. No. If a trained supervisor conducts a reasonable suspicion referral in a proper and
confidential manner that supervisor has performed his or her job appropriately.
Regardless of the test result, if the supervisor has observed the “reasonable and prudent”
rule in the conduct of the reasonable suspicion referral, the supervisor has met his or her
Q. Is a supervisor required to document the circumstances that led up to a reasonable-suspicion
drug and/or alcohol test?
A. The FMCSA rules require that a written record be made of the observations leading to
an alcohol or controlled substances reasonable suspicion test, and signed by the supervisor
or company official who made the observations, within 24 hours of the observed behavior
or before the results of the alcohol or controlled substances tests are released, whichever is
Detailed documentation and records are generally a good business practice. Drivers
believed to be under the influence of a prohibited substance or misusing alcohol may be an
immediate hazard to themselves and others, so the reasonable-suspicion determination
should not be delayed.
Q. What resources are available to the supervisor to obtain additional information on making a
A. Supervisors can obtain additional guidance from their agencies’ designated:
Substance Abuse Program Managers
Medical Review Officer (MRO)
Substance Abuse Professional (SAP)
Employee Assistance Program (EAP)