By Robert Schoening, Former Drug and Alcohol Program Manager for the US Coast Guard
There has been some discussion about school bus driver drug testing (as well as church bus driver drug screening) for drugs and alcohol with some understanding or why. But first, we need to look at how the requirement came to be.
If your school is private or public and employs bus drivers (16 or more passengers including the driver), then you are required by Federal law to implement and maintain a DOT and FMCSA compliant drug & alcohol testing program.
Requirements for commercial motor vehicle drivers and drug testing
The necessary requirements for commercial motor vehicles (CMV) subject to the drug and alcohol testing requirements as given in 49 CFR 382 are:
- Weigh 26,001 pounds or more; or
- Carry 16 or more passengers including the driver; or
- Placarded for hazardous cargo.
Drivers with a commercial driver’s license (CDL) operating public are considered DOT safety-sensitive employees for drug & alcohol testing purposes.
The above standards were passed by Congress in 1986 as part of the Commercial Motor Vehicle Act (CMVA) of 1986. The Act further states the following: “(9) Employer–The term “employer” means any person (including the United States, a State, or a political subdivision of a State) who owns or leases a commercial motor vehicle or assigns employees to operate such a vehicle” In accordance with the CMVA, school buses when operated by a governmental agency (i.e., school district) are defined to be in commercial service for the carriage of children to and from school.
With the Passage of the Omnibus Transportation Employee Act (OTETA) of 1991, the requirement for alcohol testing was passed. The regulations were published in 1993 and fully implemented in 1995. The OTETA required DOT Agencies to perform drug testing of safety-sensitive transportation employees in the aviation, trucking (including school bus drivers, and certain limousine and van drivers), railroads, mass transit, and pipelines industries.
Implementing school bus driver drug testing programs
There were the usual ups and downs of implementing the program for school bus systems and their drivers. All drivers are required to have a state driver’s license to operate a school bus. These same rules pertain to private school bus companies who operate school buses under contract for a public-school system.
The other group of vehicles is the vehicles that transport people to and from car rental companies and airport terminals. Most of those buses carry 16 or more people including the driver and operate on public roads.
FMCSA answers this question on their website:
Question 1: Are school and church bus drivers required to obtain a CDL?
Guidance: Yes, if they drive vehicles designed to transport 16 or more people.
A common question about school bus driver drug testing is what should I do about drivers that do not work in the summer. If no school bus drivers from an employer’s random testing pool are used to perform safety-sensitive functions during the summer, the employer could choose to make random selections only during the school year. If the employer nevertheless elects to make selections in the summer, tests may only be administered when the drivers return to duty. When only some drivers work in the summer there are two options to handle this:
Divers selected who are on summer vacation may be returned to the pool and another selection made, or
The selections that are off for the summer may be tested when they return to perform safety-sensitive functions as long as this is before the next random selection.
Working with your school district to implement random drug testing programs
National Drug Screening, Inc works with school districts to implement random drug testing programs in compliance with Federal regulations, taking into account the summer schedules. Best practices for random school bus driver drug testing are determined individually with each school district.