Six Reasons When To Drug Test CDL Drivers

Return to Duty Drug Testing - Lobdock Impairment Detection

Do you manage CDL drivers that operate a Commercial Motor Vehicle? If so, you need to know the six official reasons when to drug test your drivers. These will keep you in compliance with the Department of Transportation and help you maintain a drug-free workplace

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) under the Department of Transportation (DOT) has specific reasons when you should drug test CDL drivers. 

Here are the six reasons when to drug test CDL drivers to comply with the DOT-FMCSA 49 CFR Part 382:

  • Pre-employment
  • Post-accident
  • Random
  • Return-to-duty
  • Follow-up
  • Reasonable Suspicion/Cause

The following are the official DOT-FMCSA drug testing regulations interpreted in our own words. 

Pre-employment 

Your drivers need to pass a pre-employment drug test before they begin driving. In other words, each driver must have a negative pre-employment drug test on file. This is part of the driver’s qualification process. Pre-employment alcohol testing is optional. If you opt-in for pre-employment alcohol testing, do it consistently. This means, don’t require a pre-employment alcohol test for one driver and not others. 

Post-accident 

The FMCSA post-accident drug testing requirements usually need a second look. They’re a little complicated. The regulations separate the criteria between drug and alcohol testing. This is to distinguish between the post-accident time restrictions. For example, you can drug test up to 32 hours after an accident and alcohol test up to 8 hours after an accident. The time limits are in place for a reason. They are the average length of time that it takes for drugs and alcohol to exit a person’s system. So, it’s pointless to test beyond these time limits. 

Type of accident involvedCitation issued to the CMV driverTest must be performed
i. Human fatalityYESNOYESYES
ii. Bodily injury with immediate medical treatment away from the sceneYESNOYES NO
iii. Disabling damage to any motor vehicle requiring tow awayYESNOYES NO

Random 

The minimum annual rate for random drug testing is 25%. The minimum annual rate for random alcohol testing is 10%. What does this mean? To clarify, the random rate is the percentage of your covered drivers that were randomly tested for the whole year. For example, let’s say you have 100 drivers. If you randomly drug test 25 drivers in one year then your annual random drug testing rate is 25%. You would be in compliance.

The FMCSA may increase the random testing rates. The FMCSA sends a notice of the random rates before the program year starts. Complete these random tests between January 1st and December 31st. It’s a best practice to spread random tests throughout the year. This prevents random tests from stacking up at the end of the year. Check ODAPC for the most up-to-date random drug testing rates.  

Return-to-duty 

A return-to-duty drug test takes place after a driver has received a violation. Drug and alcohol violations include refusing to take a drug test or receiving a positive test result. This takes place following the Substance Abuse Professional’s (SAP) evaluation, referral, and treatment. This is also part of the driver’s return-to-duty process. The driver may return-to-duty upon completing a negative drug test. In the case of an alcohol test, a return-to-duty test below 0.02. Conduct all return-to-duty urine drug tests under direct observation.

Follow-up

Follow-up drug testing is the second part of the return-to-duty process. This also takes place after a driver has a violation. The SAP will make a follow-up testing plan based on the driver’s assessment. Do not notify the driver of the SAPs follow-up plan. You also can’t substitute other tests for follow-up tests (such as random). Conduct all follow-up urine drug tests under direct observation.

Reasonable Suspicion or For Cause

Getting Drugs and Alcohol Off the Roads

You may have a reasonable cause to believe an employee is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Base the decision to test on a reasonable and articulable belief that the employee is using a prohibited drug. These observations must be specific, physical, behavioral, or performance indicators of probable drug use. It’s a good idea to use two trained supervisors to help make the decision. 

A well-trained CDL manager should have a good understanding of the six reasons when to drug and alcohol test drivers. Always notify drivers for testing as discreetly as possible with no advanced notice. This helps maintain the element of surprise and prevents them from “cheating”. Never forget the number one goal of the DOT workplace drug testing program: safety.

Have any questions about CDL drug testing? Comment below and we’ll be glad to answer. 

How to Do Market Research for Small Business: 8 Affordable Market Research Techniques

Small business market research is a tough game.

If you Google “how to do market research,” you’ll come across a long list of tactics that are hard to use on a small business budget.

  • Market research surveys
  • Questionnaires
  • Focus groups
  • Competitive intelligence
  • SWOT analysis
  • Structured interviews.

The list goes on.

If you dig even further into market research techniques, you could quickly find yourself reading about the difference between qualitative and quantitative research, or even statistical sampling methods.

All of these market research techniques have their place. But when you’re wondering how to do market research for small business, you aren’t thinking about complicated statistical models or big budgets.

Market research firms sometimes run massive surveys and international focus groups. You might not have a way to reach 100,000 people with a survey, or the resources to set up multiple focus groups. Your market research process might not be able to include a ton of technology or statistics.

But there are still small business market research tools that work. Conducting market research for a new business or a small business can require some creativity.

With the right tactics you can do affordable or even free market research that gets you the insights you need for your business.

How can market research benefit a small business owner?

Right now you’re probably wondering: why do you need market research?

Small businesses already have a lot of day-to-day operations to deal with.
It’s hard to make time to do market research for small business—especially if you also need to learn how to do market research in the first place.

But if you don’t periodically check in with your audience, you could be leaving business and revenue on the table without ever knowing.

There are many benefits of market research for small business, but the top ones include:

  • Helping you create more compelling marketing materials
  • Identifying more targeted niches interested in your company
  • Suggesting ideas for new products or services based on pain points
  • Minimizing the risk of bad positioning that costs you leads without you knowing
  • Giving you early updates on industry trends before they become widespread

Simply put, effective market research helps you get inside your customers’ heads. How cool is that?

When you need to conduct market research on a tight budget, it can be tricky to find the techniques and market research tools that give the best value for the time and cost investment.

Here’s 8 of our favorite affordable market research techniques.

  1. Quora
  2. Reddit
  3. Book reviews
  4. Surveys
  5. Facebook groups
  6. Competitors
  7. Behavior and analytics
  8. Ask your audience

1. Quora: How to use Quora for market research

Quora is a social media platform based on questions and answers. On Quora, users can submit questions on any topic they like, as well as answer questions related to their expertise.Quora users can submit questions about anything. What if you used their questions to understand how to sell to them?TWEET THIS!

Getting started with Quora is easy: the platform guides you through the process and immediately prompts you to select your areas of interest.

Getting started with Quora

Setting up your Quora profile will let you get notified when questions are tagged with the topics you select. That makes it easy to see what burning questions your audience is asking.

And because Quora orders its answers based on voting, you can also see which solutions they think are the most valuable.

For that reason, Quora market research can be a great method of collecting information on customer pain points. In market research for small business, free public questions from your audience is hard to beat.

If it fits into your marketing plan, you can also consider putting some effort into answering Quora questions. Repurposing your blog posts as part of a Quora marketing strategy can increase their reach and visibility.

2. Reddit: How to use Reddit for market research

Reddit bills itself as “the front page of the internet,” and for good reason—Alexa ranks Reddit as the eighth most trafficked website in the world and the fifth most trafficked in the United States.

Reddit contains a wide variety of communities, linked content, original content, and memes. But among cat videos and adorable gifs, there are some surprisingly insightful conversations—discussions that are a gold mine for small business market research.Reddit has so many different communities – can you find one where your audience is talking about what they need?TWEET THIS!

Reddit is organized into “subreddits,” which are communities focused on specific topics. Finding subreddits based on your industry is a good way to mine for pain points—and discover your audience’s candid thoughts.

Anonymity means that redditors are often willing to share things they wouldn’t normally talk about in person. Reading discussion threads or even asking questions yourself can help you get insights from specific niches.

For example, if you run a fitness business and need to know how to do market research, you’ll find that are quite a few opportunities to conduct customer research on reddit.

Subreddits like these will show up:

  • /r/fitness
  • /r/loseit
  • /r/gainit
  • /r/bodybuilding
  • /r/running
  • /r/bodyweightfitness

Each of them serve different communities, and people often share their successes and struggles.

Reddit can also be helpful for tracking down a very narrow segment of a larger population. A subreddit like /r/griptraining is the very definition of niche—but if you run a rock climbing or powerlifting gym it could have valuable insights from your target audience.

Reddit market research


Navigating Reddit can be a little tricky for new users. But once you figure it out, it’s a powerful tool to do market research for small business.

3. Book reviews: How to use Amazon book reviews for market research

This market research technique is a little bit unusual—but it’s all the more powerful because of how few people think of it.The most underrated marketing research channel? Amazon book reviewsTWEET THIS!

When you need to conduct market research on a tight budget, you need to get creative. Book reviews offer a wealth of information, sometimes incredibly detailed and specific, that few people are taking advantage of.

Amazon book review


Amazon reviews are public, and you probably have some idea of the most important or popular books in your field. Even if you don’t, Amazon charts are also freely available—it’s easy to find out what people are reading.

Once you’ve tracked down some popular books, take a look at the reviews. Amazon lets you easily sort reviews by how positive they are and how helpful they are, so you can dive in at whatever point you like.

Joana Wiebe of Copyhackers is a huge review mining advocate to get to know your audience – and rightfully so. You can hear exactly what peoples problems and wishes are in their exact language.

Positive reviews will be helpful because they can help you understand what people are benefiting from.

Negative or lukewarm reviews can be even more helpful, because there’s a chance they call out needs or burning pains that the book didn’t answer—which may represent unmet needs your business can take advantage of.

4. Surveys: How to use a survey for market research

When most people think of using a survey to do market research for small business, they think of a massive effort that goes out to thousands and thousands of customers.

No, you probably don’t have thousands and thousands of customers that will respond to a survey. And there are some types of survey research that really do require those kinds of numbers.The best way to understand your audience? Ask them what they want.TWEET THIS!

But there are others that don’t. And those are the kind you can focus on as you learn how to do market research for your small business.

Customer insights are one of your business’ most valuable resources.

Setting up surveys that get sent to customers after a sale can help you get a sense of how satisfied they are and what needs led them to make a purchase.

Similarly, you can set up surveys that go out to people that didn’t make a purchase. What prevented them from buying? What might have caused them to make a different decision?

Even if you only ask those two survey questions, the answers can help you make adjustments for the next time around.

BONUS – this type of small business market research is easy to automate.

Setting up automations that trigger based on purchase or lack of purchase is easy to do with marketing automation software. Set up survey questions once, then focus on other parts of your small business while the results come in.

5. Facebook groups: How to use Facebook for market research

Using Facebook for market research


Facebook has risen up as one of the major community building platforms for business. Type your industry into Facebook search and you’re bound to find a variety of related groups.Hang out in the Facebook groups your audience hangs out in. You’ll be surprised at what you learn.TWEET THIS!

Some Facebook groups will be run by other business owners, others are simply people interested in the same topics. Regardless, reading through the conversations and questions asked in Facebook groups can be a valuable source of market research.

When you’re using Facebook for market research, you have a few options.
Simply reading through existing conversations is a great way to get started.

Even though names on Facebook aren’t private, people are often more willing to share their goals or frustrations within a relatively private group.

Once you’ve observed for a while and understand a group’s tone and social norms, you can start to join the conversation. Becoming a member of a group and engaging in discussions can be a great way to ask questions and go beyond surface level insights.

You can’t do this on another business’s page, and you have to be careful about coming off spammy, but Facebook groups can also help you get participants for a market research survey.

As you get more comfortable with how to do market research on Facebook, sharing a link to a survey can help you gather quantitative market research data.

As a free platform with over two billion monthly active users, Facebook can be a powerful way to do market research for small business.

6. Competitors: How to use competitor analysis for market research

Chances are you’re not the only business in your niche. How are the most popular websites in your industry trying to appeal to your audience?What are your competitors doing that you can learn from?TWEET THIS!

How can you tell which content is the most popular or successful? Use a tool like Buzzsumo to find the most shared content on a particular topic.

Buzzsumo market research


A tool like SEMrush can tell you which content ranks the highest in search engines. Both are good ways to identify potentially high-value topics.

Beyond content, look at the other marketing materials your competitors put out.

  • What kind of messaging are they using on their website?
  • How are they creating cross-sell and upsell opportunities?
  • What does their team look like—who’s actually doing their marketing?

As you grow your business, this kind of information becomes more useful.

There’s no guarantee that your competitors are doing everything the best way—but seeing how they are managing their business can spark ideas to improve your own.

Here’s how you do this kind of research:

  • Collect all of the info your competitors make publicly available
  • Comb through their website and about page, download flyers and brochures, and check out the events they attend.
  • Make absolutely sure you get on their email list, so you can see what kind of messages they like to send.

It’s worth taking competitor research with a grain of salt. Again, there’s no guarantee that competitors have done the level of customer research you’re looking for. Still, looking at competitor messaging is a useful way to infer the features and benefits that matter to your audience.

Competitor research isn’t a substitute for contacting your audience directly, but it can be a good starting point to figure out what kind of content is popular in your niche.

7. Behavior and analytics: How to use data for market research

It’s one thing to know what customers say they want. In any industry, professionals know that customers don’t always know how to solve their problems. Sometimes there’s a better question to ask for market research.

What do they actually do?Surveys tell you what people say they want. Data and behavior tracking tell you what people actually want.TWEET THIS!

Tracking behavior on your website or engagement with your emails and messages is a great way to see which of your marketing efforts are most popular—and can help you adjust your marketing in the future.

Google Analytics is one powerful tool that can show you exactly how people engage with your website.

Google Analytics behavior tracking


What content topics are the most popular? Make more content on those topics. Which pages have the best conversion rates? Direct more traffic to those pages. Your content marketing is also a source of information about your audience.

Combining website tracking with marketing automation can take things to the next level.

Marketing automation software can track email opens, link clicks, behavior on websites, replies/forwarding—and use those insights to automatically follow up with customers on what they care about most.

Of all the affordable small business market research techniques on this list, data is the most actionable. Analytics let you go from insight to action almost instantly—and sometimes automatically.

8. Ask your audience: How to use interviews for market research

Even though people don’t always say quite what they mean, there’s no substitute for direct, one-on-one conversations with your audience.Sit down with a customer for 45 minutes. You’ll learn things about your business that you can’t find anywhere else.TWEET THIS!

A market research interview allows free conversation that leads to deeper insights than survey or written answers. If you can get people to open up, you’ll be rewarded by detailed information about their pain points, struggles, and successes.

The style of the interview is less important than getting interviews done. You can do phone interviews, in-person interviews, even email interviews—and still get actionable insights.

The lessons you learn from talking to even 10 customers can change your business strategy, marketing, or client service. The ability to speak to customers using their own language is like a marketing superpower.

Customer interviews are the way to do it.

Entire businesses can be built on what your customers tell you. When you listen to your audience, you get to the heart of what they care about—and no amount of online market research or survey data can tell you that as precisely as they can.

Conclusion: Use market research to get inside your customers’ heads

If your business grows, you’ll eventually want to consider the focus group, survey, statistical analysis, and market trends approach to market research.

Those methods can reveal insights that are hard to find using more affordable market research techniques.

If you need to understand market saturation, or build a picture of how your pricing compares to the competition, you’ll eventually need to use some of the more traditional forms of market research.

But there’s value to doing market research before you have the budget for standard methods. Getting in touch with your customers’ needs can give you a huge edge as a small business.

Not a lot of people do market research for small business like this. Most prefer to wait until they can hire someone to do it for them (or just ignore it entirely).

Because of that, these types of affordable market research techniques are a huge competitive advantage—one that lets you get inside the heads of your customers and offer them exactly what they want to buy.

How To Start A Business: A Step-By-Step Guide

You’ve dreamed about starting your own business. You want independence and ownership in your work life. You even have an idea for a product or service that you want to sell. All your uncertainty is about the details involved in starting a business.

There is no one-size-fits-all blueprint for how to start a business. But there are best practices and steps you can take for success.

We offer a series of steps to help you get started.

How to Start a Business: Forbes Advisor’s 10 Step Guide

1. Get Your Mind on the Right Track

It takes a certain mindset to start a business from scratch—one that’s not too skittish and not too foolhardy.

Perhaps the greatest challenge for new owners is working longer and harder than they ever expected. The truth is: No one will be more determined to see your business succeed than you. You need to be committed from the get-go.

Another common deterrent for entrepreneurs is timing. There is seldom a perfect time to start a business. If you have a product or service that you think could work, then go for it. You want to plan, yes, but you don’t want to get stuck in a cycle of analysis paralysis. You will never truly know if now is a good time unless you try. The key is to get started. Then you deal with the challenges and opportunities along the way.

You’ll need the fortitude to overcome those challenges and the ability to enjoy the opportunities. Desire and determination are essential to driving a small business to success. Even more essential is a vision of what could be.

Stay motivated by focusing on the rewards of your small business succeeding, independence, and the sense of pride that comes with owning your own business.

2. Focus on Refining Your Idea

If you don’t have a firm idea of what your business will entail, ask yourself the following questions: What do you love to do? What do you hate to do? Can you think of something that would make it easier?

These questions can lead you to an idea for your business. If you already have an idea, they might help you expand it.

Your business idea doesn’t have to be a game-changer. It doesn’t need to be novel, either.

For example, do you love to travel? Consider a business as a travel planner if you are good at finding unique hotels and experiences. Do you have a specific talent, such as cooking? Start a business as a personal chef and deliver home-cooked meals. Are you passionate about animals? Become a dog trainer or sitter—or a combination of both.

You can also look around at what is currently available in the marketplace. Then, imagine spinoffs of those products and services that might exist five years from now—10 years from now. That could be the seed that sprouts into your very own product.

3. Do Your Market Research and Competitor Analysis

Is your idea for a product or service that you want to sell a viable one? You’ll need to conduct some market research to find out. Such research is crucial to understand the level of demand for the product or service you want to offer and can help you determine the tastes of the consumer base within your target market. It’s also a necessary part of your business plan that you will use to obtain funding.

Your product or service may be one not currently offered in the marketplace. If so, that’s a great advantage. If it’s already offered, you must have a way to differentiate it from its competitors. If you understand the economic environment and trends that might affect your consumer base and demand, you will better choose what and how you want to sell.

Here’s an example of product and service differentiation in the restaurant industry. Through market research, you find out that healthy-minded customers aren’t satisfied by the pre-made salad options offered by nearby chain restaurants. With this data, you can ensure that your restaurant caters to that niche and differentiates itself from the chains by offering build-your-own salads and other customizable, healthy dishes.

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Your market research can be composed of primary and secondary research.

Primary research is the process of collecting data directly rather than relying on the results of already collected data. Primary research can lead to a higher level of accuracy than relying on previously collected data. It is helpful because you can survey the target market through, for example, questionnaires, surveys, and interviews to determine the tastes of the customers.

When you do secondary research, you use existing sources of information, such as Census data, to gather information. The existing data can be studied, compiled, and analyzed in different ways that suit your needs, but it may not be as granular as primary research.

Also, consider conducting a SWOT analysis at this stage. You will be able to use it in your soon-to-be business plan. A SWOT analysis is a business assessment technique that focuses on the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats relevant to your business. The SWOT analysis shows the relationships between these variables so you can determine the best path forward.

The SWOT framework allows you to consider your competition as well. You can do this by isolating the strategic actions of your competitors. Then, you can analyze their strengths and weaknesses in order to search for a new competitive strategy.

4. Develop a Business Plan

A business plan is a living document that serves as a roadmap to guide the development of a new business. A business plan is constructed in order easy for potential investors, financial institutions, and management of the business to read and digest. Even if you expect to self-fund, a business plan can be a helpful tool.

Business plans typically offer some form of SWOT analysis. Financial institutions and venture capitalists find a SWOT analysis to be a concise source of information about the new business and its competitive strategy. You’ll be ahead of the curve if you already conducted a SWOT analysis during your market research.

A typical business plan is organized something like this:

  • Executive summary: The executive summary should be the first item in the business plan, but it should be written last. It describes the proposed new business and highlights the goals of the business and the methods that will be used to achieve them.
  • Mission and goals: This section should contain a brief mission statement and detail what the business wishes to accomplish and the steps to get there.
  • Background summary: This portion of the business plan is the most time-consuming to write. Compile and summarize any data, articles and research studies on trends that could positively and negatively affect your business or industry.
  • Organizational structure: In this section, write about the type of business organization you expect, what risk management strategies you propose and who’s going to staff the management team.
  • Marketing plan: The marketing plan identifies the characteristics of your product or service, summarizes the SWOT analysis and analyzes competitors.
  • Financial plan: The financial plan is perhaps the core of the business plan because, without money, the business will not move forward. A proposed budget should be included along with projected financial statements, such as an income statement, a balance sheet and a statement of cash flows. Usually, five years of projected financial statements are acceptable. The funding request is also in this section.
  • Summary: The funding request should be summarized along with the main points concerning why the business is viable.

It is important that the business plan looks as professional as possible, particularly if you plan to use it outside the business. Consider using a business plan template.

5. Choose Your Business Structure

When choosing the legal structure of your business, consider one that serves the interests of the company, you, and any other owners. One of the first issues you should address is that of limited liability.

If you are starting a very small business with few employees, you might consider sole proprietorship. The business and the owner are, for legal and tax purposes, considered the same. The business owner assumes liability for the business. This means that if the business fails, the owner is personally and financially responsible for all debts of the business.

To limit your personal liability, you could register as a limited liability company (LLC). LLCs can be owned by one person or several. Such owners are referred to as members. Other companies can be considered members as well.  If you want to start a specialized business as an accountant or an attorney and have one or more partners, you can register as a limited liability partnership (LLP) for the same reasons.

If your company will be larger and have several employees, consider using the S corporation form of an organization if you don’t mind limiting the number of shareholders to 100 and don’t need to obtain venture capital (as many VC firms aren’t eligible to become S corporation shareholders).

For a high-growth start-up, the C corporation might be most appropriate if you are interested in venture capital since you can issue more than one class of stock. Both types of corporations give you the protection of limited liability but differ in their treatment of income taxes and other financial considerations.

There are several legal issues to address when starting a business after choosing the business structure.

Here’s what you should do:

  • Choose and register your business name. Make it memorable but not too difficult. Choose the same domain name, if available, to establish your internet presence.
  • Apply for an Employer Identification Number. Make your application to the Internal Revenue Service. This process may take up to four weeks.
  • Apply for the licenses and permits you need. What you need is determined by your industry and location. Most businesses need a mixture of state and federal licenses to operate. Check with your local government office for licensing information tailored to your area.
  • Open a business bank account. You want to keep your business and personal finances separate. Here’s how to choose a business checking account—and why separate business accounts are important.
  • Apply for business insurance. You should consider general liability insurance for your business in case of property damage, lawsuits or other problems. You may also want to invest in product liability insurance and commercial property insurance. In most states, workers’ compensation insurance is required by law if you have employees.

7. Obtain Capital for Your Business

It takes money to launch a small business. Since a new business has no financial track record, obtaining initial financing can be difficult. There is the option of internal financing, and here are some of the methods:

  • Owner’s own funds: The business owner may finance the initial launch of the business from personal wealth.
  • Credit cards: Personal or business credit cards can be used for initial funding.
  • Family and friends: The owner may be able to get a loan from family or friends. There is also the possibility that a family member or friend will want to buy a stake in the business.

Some downsides to internal financing include draining your personal wealth on a business that may or may not succeed. If you finance the business with your own funds or with credit cards, you have to pay the debt on the credit cards and you’ve lost a chunk of your personal wealth if the business fails. By allowing members of your family or friends to invest in your business, you are risking hard feelings and strained relationships if the business goes under.

To avoid these downsides, you can try these external financing sources:

  • Small business loans: The best option may be to apply to one of the many loan programs through the Small Business Administration. Learn which SBA loan is right for your business.
  • Small business grants: There are grants available through the Small Business Administration for specific types of businesses and business owners. Federal grants opportunities are also available through Grants.gov.
  • Angel investors: These are high net worth individuals who invest a small portion of their portfolios in early-stage new businesses. They are looking for a return, but they are not as predatory in their lending as some other options.
  • Venture capitalists: These individuals are looking to fund high-growth, high-potential start-ups. They provide financing during the various growth stages and then may try to arrange for a sale of the company.
  • Crowdfunding: Using one of the myriad crowdfunding platforms on the internet, such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo and Patreon, business owners can try to raise funds from generous strangers and friends alike.

One of the biggest mistakes new businesses make is under-capitalization so a new small business may have to use a combination of funding sources.

8. Set Up Accounting and Bookkeeping Systems

At the very least, most small businesses need software with a full accounting package that allows ledger and journal entries and the development of the necessary financial statements. Depending on the subscription tier you need, you can expect to pay between $15 and $150 per month.

The company also needs to be able to use its accounting system for two special functions, which don’t come with every software package. First, if you sell a product, you need an inventory function to manage and track inventory. Second, if your business intends to do its own payroll, a payroll function needs to be included. If you expect to have many employees, outsourcing payroll is often a good idea due to the tax implications.

The accounting system should have the capability to have tax information ready at the appropriate intervals.

9. Hire a Team of Employees

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Before you start hiring employees, the following should be in place:

  • An Employee Identification Number (EIN) for your business
  • Job descriptions for each position complete with salary range
  • Comprehensive employee application form including references
  • An employment offer letter or agreement
  • Confidentiality and disclosure agreements
  • Appropriate IRS forms including the I-9 and W-4

You should also be prepared to talk with the potential employees’ previous supervisors.

10. Market the Business Aggressively

New small businesses are often operating with a limited initial investment. They need to market aggressively but with a limited budget. In many cases, the business with the best online presence will win. Creating or commissioning a website is a crucial first step.

Some techniques to drive customers to your website are:

  • Search engine optimization: If you optimize your website and content so that the search engines can find and index it, in turn, customers will be able to find you much easier. This is a long-term and ongoing strategy that can have a big impact on your digital presence.
  • Content marketing: Providing quality digital content can drive customers to your business. Videos, customer testimonials, blog posts and demos are only a few of the content marketing techniques businesses use to draw in customers, generate leads and establish themselves as a trustworthy brand.
  • Social media: Your social media presence can drive traffic and sales. Facebook advertising, for example, is probably one of the cheapest forms of advertising and can help you reach new customers. Facebook and Instagram both have e-commerce features that allow you to make sales directly from your social media page as well. At the very least, create free business pages on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter that all use the same URL or handle to make it easy for customers to find you.

Digital marketing techniques can be supplemented with traditional marketing techniques including direct mail, discounts, coupons and print advertising.

How Entrepreneurs Can Build Their Business With Today’s Freelance Platforms

If you’re a business owner, chances are you have too much on your plate. One of the biggest challenges of starting a company from scratch is having too much to do in too little time — not to mention a lack of specific skill sets and expertise. In fact, 45% of entrepreneurs report being really stressed out. Those factors used to make it extra hard to begin a business, but times are changing. 

The past year and a half have taught us a lot, and the modern workplace has changed.  Entrepreneurs can take advantage of this new landscape to get more of their initiatives over the goal line. Savvy business leaders are well acquainted with freelancers and the ways that they can help them to accomplish quick-turn projects. Freelance platforms provide a one-stop-shop for finding the necessary talent to fill gaps in skill sets or experience — without going through the effort and expense of hiring full-time resources. 

What is a freelance platform?

Freelance platforms are online marketplaces where skilled professionals from anywhere in the world can find work and get paid. They have grown tremendously over the past few years, which makes sense since it’s been predicted that freelancers will make up 80% of the workforce by 2030. Freelancing used to be considered “gig work” or side jobs but now offers major employment opportunities. 

In a highly connected and globalized world, typical 9-to-5 jobs are less desirable to people that want to feel consistently engaged and challenged. Instead, many individuals would rather operate as independent contractors and offer their particular skill set on a project or temporary basis. Companies of all sizes have found advantages through working with freelancers and consultants of all types. In the old days, larger businesses would hire pricey consulting firms to help them achieve strategic initiatives. Now, even brand new organizations can use freelance or consulting platforms to achieve cost savings, faster project timelines, and standardized processes. 

Simply put, there’s a lot to accomplish when you start a business—and freelance platforms can help you get those things done faster. 

How to effectively leverage a freelance platform

Hiring freelancers on a platform offers convenience and profitability. That being said, freelance platforms are certainly not all created equal — nor are the professionals that you’ll find on them. Make sure to follow these steps if you’re using a freelance platform to supplement your team. 

1. Research your options

There are many freelance platforms out there — in fact, over 170. However, most freelance platforms specialize in a certain geographic area, specialty, or price range. Your best bet is to narrow down your search based on the most reputable companies.  

2. Understand your real needs 

Before you begin a search on a freelance platform, you should have a comprehensive list of tasks prepared. Even more important, you should be able to tie those tasks to the larger goal of generating revenue (or other key drivers like reducing costs). Many people waste time and money on hiring consultants because of scope creep and moving the goalposts on projects after they’ve begun. 

For example, you may understand that you need to advertise your new business, so you begin looking for paid advertising specialists. But is that really where you should begin? Or do you need someone to put together a more robust and well-researched promotional strategy, that happens to include online advertising? As you know, there’s a big difference between strategy development and tactical execution.

This is where freelancers differ from consultants. Do you need a freelancer for project-related jobs, or a consultant to help you drive business outcomes? If you need the latter, you should be looking at a consulting marketplace instead of a freelance platform. 

Freelance jobs most commonly hired by entrepreneurs

There are certain areas that are actually ideal for hiring project-based workers rather than full-time employees. Some of them include:

  • Virtual assistance
  • Graphic design
  • Writing and editing
  • Social media management
  • eCommerce specialties
  • App development
  • Accounting
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Web Design

There’s a benefit to knowing what common areas of business freelancers occupy. For one, it tells you what other businesses are currently outsourcing. It also means that your pool of potential options is much larger and more competitive. While there’s likely someone out there to serve any type of business need it’s wisest to identify common areas that are easiest to outsource.

Remember, as your business grows and expands you can always look for opportunities to bring this type of work in-house. You may even develop such a good relationship with those you’re outsourcing with that you can even extend an offer for permanent placement down the line.

3. Seek experience — even at a premium 

You’ve probably heard the phrase “You get what you pay for”, and this is especially true when it comes to human capital. In today’s war for talent, workers can be selective about who they work for and what they work on. It’s essential to be willing to go the extra mile for specific expertise. In many cases, the advice and counsel that entrepreneurs rely on is critical to their future success. 

This type of c-level expertise is not likely to be found at an hourly rate. Instead, for best-in-class professionals or executive expertise, entrepreneurs need to be nimble and willing to invest in longer-term contracts, flexible arrangements, and significant rewards for performance. 

Even if you’re looking for non-strategic tasks like copywriting, database management, or design, seek the top-rated professionals on the platform and exclude the lowest-priced people from your shortlist. They tend to have less experience and are keeping prices low to gain new clients. That’s ok — everyone has to start somewhere — but new businesses have less leeway in that regard. 

Pay the rate that will ensure that your work gets done correctly the first time. 

4. Be transparent and supportive

Once you hire a freelancer, you need to do your part. Give them access to whatever they require from you. Be speedy and reliable in your communications. They can be a lot more successful if you don’t become a bottleneck for them. 

Outsource work without sacrificing quality

Beginning a new business is complex, and your work is never done. Leveraging a freelance platform can allow entrepreneurs to outsource some of the task-based items on their list, without worrying that their standards won’t be met. 

However, if the scope of expertise you’re looking for goes beyond simply executing, then you may need to turn to a consultant marketplace. Either way, outsourcing is a convenient and profitable way to have others help you with the day-to-day aspects of running a business, while you focus on what you do best—growing your company.

The Five Stages of Small Business Growth

Categorizing the problems and growth patterns of small businesses in a systematic way that is useful to entrepreneurs seems at first glance a hopeless task. Small businesses vary widely in size and capacity for growth. They are characterized by independence of action, differing organizational structures, and varied management styles.

Yet on closer scrutiny, it becomes apparent that they experience common problems arising at similar stages in their development. These points of similarity can be organized into a framework that increases our understanding of the nature, characteristics, and problems of businesses ranging from a corner dry cleaning establishment with two or three minimum-wage employees to a $20-million-a-year computer software company experiencing a 40% annual rate of growth.

For owners and managers of small businesses, such an understanding can aid in assessing current challenges; for example, the need to upgrade an existing computer system or to hire and train second-level managers to maintain planned growth.

It can help in anticipating the key requirements at various points—e.g., the inordinate time commitment for owners during the start-up period and the need for delegation and changes in their managerial roles when companies become larger and more complex.

The framework also provides a basis for evaluating the impact of present and proposed governmental regulations and policies on one’s business. A case in point is the exclusion of dividends from double taxation, which could be of great help to a profitable, mature, and stable business like a funeral home but of no help at all to a new, rapidly growing high-technology enterprise.

Finally, the framework aids accountants and consultants in diagnosing problems and matching solutions to smaller enterprises. The problems of a 6-month-old, 20-person business are rarely addressed by advice based on a 30-year-old, 100-person manufacturing company. For the former, cash-flow planning is paramount; for the latter, strategic planning and budgeting to achieve coordination and operating control are most important.

Developing a Small Business Framework

Various researchers over the years have developed models for examining businesses (see Exhibit 1). Each uses business size as one dimension and company maturity or the stage of growth as a second dimension. While useful in many respects, these frameworks are inappropriate for small businesses on at least three counts.

Exhibit 1 Growth Phases

First, they assume that a company must grow and pass through all stages of development or die in the attempt. Second, the models fail to capture the important early stages in a company’s origin and growth. Third, these frameworks characterize company size largely in terms of annual sales (although some mention number of employees) and ignore other factors such as value-added, number of locations, the complexity of product line, and rate of change in products or production technology.

To develop a framework relevant to small and growing businesses, we used a combination of experience, a search of the literature, and empirical research. (See the second insert.) The framework that evolved from this effort delineates the five stages of development shown in Exhibit 2. Each stage is characterized by an index of size, diversity, and complexity and is described by five management factors: managerial style, organizational structure, the extent of formal systems, major strategic goals, and the owner’s involvement in the business. We depict each stage in Exhibit 3 and describe each narratively in this article.

How to Decide Which Type of Business Loan Is Right for You

How To Improve Your Business Loan Eligibility | FinSMEs

There are many types of business loans. Here’s how to choose the right one for you.

  • There are many different types of business loans, including working capital loans, SBA loans, and loans from friends and family.
  • Each loan type comes with its own set of terms and conditions.
  • To determine which loan is right for you, carefully consider what your business needs the loan for, what repayment terms you can handle and how much money you need.

Finding the right sources of funding for your business can be difficult. There are many types of funding available – investors, grants, loans, etc. – and each has its own application process and set of rules.

One of the most common options for small business funding is a business loan. Small business funding sounds like it should be easy enough to obtain, but borrowing money is not as straightforward as it seems.

2017 study found that 27% of small businesses have difficulty gaining adequate financing. As a business owner, you need to know your options so that you can tailor your application to the type of loan you need and lay out exactly how you plan to use the funds.

Consider these seven types of business loans to figure out which one is right for you.https://widgets.business.com/qt-widget-v2/index.html?pubId=1000&offerGroupId=11&widgetHostPage=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.business.com%2Farticles%2F4-types-of-business-loans-and-which-one-is-right-for-you%2F&isHeadlineVisible=true&viewType=default&hasBestPickBadge=false

Friends and family loan

4 Important Factors to Consider Before Accessing a Business Loan -  Entrepreneur Business Blog

We’re all familiar with this option, but there are specifics as to when and how to do it that surprise you. First, it’s always a good business practice to put the loan in writing, and to state a specific interest rate and repayment plan. Otherwise, you open the door to unfortunate misunderstandings that can chill your relationship. Also, you should have documentation of the loan’s terms in case the IRS decides to audit your business.

Conditions

Borrowing from loved ones carries risk. We’ve outlined the benefits and drawbacks of borrowing money for your company from your parents, and a lot of these tips hold true for other family members and close friends who may lend to you. The reality is that many people may not have extra money to part with or, if they do, aren’t comfortable parting with such a large sum for something they have no control over. Be sure to “overcommunicate” the value you bring to your customers, and indicate if and how your friends and family will be able to participate in your business.

You should provide a written promissory note that states how much money they can expect you to pay back and at what interest rate. With this note, you’ll also want to specify a repayment schedule in writing.

Benefits

Money borrowed from friends and family can come with the best low-interest repayment plan you’ll ever get. This is one of the best reasons to borrow money from friends and family instead of banks and commercial lenders. You may also expand your sales force when you borrow money from those you know: When they’re financially invested (in addition to being personally invested as someone who loves you), they may take it upon themselves to help you succeed and reach your business goals.

How to apply

To show you’re serious about requesting funding from relatives, you may want to approach the subject formally, armed with your business plan, projections, outlines of how you’ll use the money, specifications on your friends and family’s involvement in your business financing, and suggested loan terms and repayment terms. [Read related article: The Roadmap to Peer-to-Peer Lending]

Editor’s note: Looking for a small business loan? Fill out the questionnaire below to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.

Business line of credit

A business line of credit is a flexible business loan that allows you to only pay interest on the portion of money that you borrow. It works similarly to a credit card in that you may draw and repay funds as you need, so long as you do not exceed your credit limit. This is a great option for businesses looking for an easy way to manage their cash flow, purchase inventory or pay a surprise expense.

Conditions

A business line of credit works like a credit card, allowing you to take out and repay money on your own terms as long as you stay within your credit limit and make payments on time. Most lenders will allow you to pay off your balance early to keep your interest costs down.

Line of credit limits tend to be lower than business term loan amounts – generally from $1,000 to $250,000 – and are unsecured, so you typically do not need to put up collateral except in the case of a larger line of credit.

Benefits

Business lines of credit are a flexible option that allow you to manage your business’s cash flow as you see fit, and you can reuse and repay your credit as often as you need.

How to apply

Similarly to business term loans, you can get a business line of credit from either a traditional bank or online lender. Banks will require your business to have strong revenue and one to three years of positive history to qualify, as well as the following documentation:

  • Tax returns (business and personal)
  • Bank account information
  • Business financial statements

Online lenders generally have fewer restrictions and qualifications than banks, but they tend to charge higher interest rates and have lower credit limits.

FYIFYI: To qualify for a business line of credit from an online lender, you’ll need to have been in business for at least six months, make $25,000 or more in annual revenue, and have a credit score of 500 or higher.

Working capital loan

Working capital loans are short-term business loans designed to bring extra cash into the business to use for growth and expansion, and for day-to-day expenses such as advertising, payroll or inventory purchases. You can also use working capital loans to cover emergency costs or pay down debt.

Conditions

Like personal loans, working capital loans require you – as the business owner – to have a sparkling personal credit history. Applications for this type of funding require a significant amount of paperwork, and processing can take weeks or even a few months.

Benefits

Working capital loans are effective because they finance the everyday operation of your business and usually have low interest rates. You may be able to secure a rate between 3% and 7% if you have a great credit score.

How to apply

Working capital loans are typically available through large, national banks as well as regional or statewide banks. You might also look into working capital loans available at your local credit union or through a third-party direct lender. For the best chances of securing a working capital loan, approach the bank that you already do business with first. Not only will it have access to a lot of your financial information, but it will be able to review your existing banking and credit habits to assess risk.

Business term loan

A business term loan is a lump sum of capital that you pay back in regular payments at a fixed interest rate for a set period of time – which is where the “term” part comes in. The term is generally one to five years.

Conditions

The purpose of a business term loan is to allow you to finance a large purchase for your business, such as equipment or new facilities. There are few restrictions to a business term loan, and most businesses that have good credit and generate revenue will qualify.

With a business term loan, you get a predetermined amount of money and a fixed interest rate to be repaid in a set number of years. The loan amount will depend on your business and its needs, but it’s generally within the range of $25,000 to $500,000, with interest rates from 7% to 30%.

Benefits

A business term loan generally has few restrictions and can help you build your business by introducing new capital for purposes like a new office or equipment. You will also have all of the information and terms regarding your loan from the get-go, but it’s still important to carefully read the contract so nothing will be a surprise down the line as you start making payments. [Read related article: Hidden Gotchas in Your Business Loan Repayment Terms]

Did you know?Did you know? Business term loans are suitable for a wide range of businesses, and they generally offer lower monthly payments and longer payment terms than short-term loans.

How to apply

You have a couple of options when applying for a business term loan. They are traditionally available through banks, though that can be a long and arduous application process. Several banks offer expedited online applications, though. These are some of the documents you’ll need:

  • Driver’s license
  • Voided business check
  • Bank statements
  • Balance sheet
  • Credit score
  • Tax returns (personal and business)
  • Profit and loss statements

Small Business Administration (SBA) loan

SBA loans are government-backed loans that are available to small businesses from private-sector lenders. These are secured loans, meaning you must pledge your company or personal assets as collateral. There are three different SBA loan programs:

  1. The 7(a) Loan Program is the SBA’s main program for providing assistance to small businesses. The terms and conditions vary by loan, and maximum loan amounts range from $350,000 to $5 million.
  2. The Microloan Program provides the smallest loan amounts available from the SBA, ranging from $10,000 to $50,000. Microloans are ideal for small startups, borrowers with limited collateral or companies that just need a small financial boost.
  3. The CDC/504 Loan Program offers loans to small businesses with long-term fixed-rate financing for the purposes of expansion or modernization – such as large equipment or real estate purchases. These are typically larger loans, “generally capped at $5 million.” Terms are 10, 20 or 25 years, depending on the purpose of the loan.

Conditions

There are multiple conditions under which SBA loans cannot be issued, including if a business is operating as a nonprofit or is not based in the United States. SBA loans cannot be used to repay delinquent state or federal withholding taxes.

Terms vary by the size of the loan, the planned use of the money and your needs as a small business borrower. The maximum term allowed for a microloan is six years. Interest rates are usually between 8% and 13%.

Benefits

Each SBA loan has its own unique benefits. For instance, a 7(a) loan is extremely versatile and can be used to purchase land or buildings, cover new construction, finance equipment or other supplies, or acquire an existing business.

Microloans may be available to businesses that otherwise wouldn’t qualify for a loan. They can also be used in multiple ways – as working capital; to purchase inventory, supplies, furniture and fixtures; or to buy machinery and equipment.

The 504 Loan Program, which borrowers typically use to buy commercial real estate or heavy equipment, offers both short-term and long-term benefits, including 90% financing, longer loan amortizations, fixed interest rates and overall savings.

How to apply

Each program has specific eligibility criteria and an application process. Visit the SBA website for information on how to apply for an SBA loan and for checklists to ensure you have everything you need for a successful loan application.

Accounts receivable factoring

Accounts receivable factoring is also known as receivable financing. This type of business loan is used to convert sales on credit terms for immediate cash flow. For example, if you provide outsourced marketing services to large enterprise clients, you might sell your existing, uncollected invoices (which you are waiting on payment for) to a third party for an advance payment. This third party, called the factor, provides you with the full or partial amount and then collects on the sale from your customer. This type of financing is generally used to buy your small business some time while you look for more long-term, sustainable sources of financing.

Conditions

This receivable credit line can be costly, so you should exhaust all other efforts of financing before turning to it. Once you factor in a discount fee, interest rates of 10% to 25%, and other charges, you could end up paying much more over time than you would with other financing options. Also, your financing is determined by the financial strength of your customer, not you as a seller of goods or services. Most invoices over 90 days old will not get financed, and invoices that are paid out quicker will afford you more beneficial terms.

Benefits

One of the greatest advantages of this type of business loan is that it allows you to cash in immediately on your future receivables; you won’t have the majority of your capital tied up in inventory or unpaid invoices. It may also be beneficial to outsource your accounts receivable management to another company, freeing up your focus for productive work on your business. This funding is also faster than many options, as you don’t have to provide a business plan or tax statements.

How to apply

Most companies that offer accounts receivable financing are commercial lenders, not banks. To apply for accounts receivable financing, you’ll have to fill out an application and hand over your articles of incorporation, your company’s most recent accounts receivable and payable reports, a master customer list, and an example of your typical invoice.

Merchant cash advance

merchant cash advance isn’t technically a loan, but rather a cash advance based on the credit card sales deposited into your merchant account.

Merchant cash advances are quick, often depositing funds 24 hours after approval. Historically, merchant cash advances have been used by businesses that primarily subsist on credit and debit card sales, such as restaurants and retailers, but they have become available to other businesses that do not rely on card payments.

Conditions

With a merchant cash advance, you receive an upfront sum of cash in exchange for a portion of your future credit and debit card sales or by remitting fixed daily or weekly debits directly from your bank account. 

Merchant loan advances provide you with fast money but carry high annual percentage rates that consist of the total cost of the loan plus all fees. They can run your business into debt quickly if you are not careful.

Your fee amount is determined by your ability to repay the merchant cash advance. The provider will determine a factor rate of 1.2 to 1.5 based on a risk assessment. The higher the factor rate, the higher your fees. Your total repayment amount is the factor rate times the cash advance.

Benefits

The main draw of merchant cash advances is that they are fast; you could have cash in hand less than a week after submission with little to no paperwork. Merchant cash advances are also unsecured, which means you do not have to put up collateral in case you cannot repay, and repayments will adjust to how well your business is doing.

How to apply

Applying for a merchant cash advance is simple. Start by looking at online business lenders and filling out their online applications. Expect to provide three months’ worth of financial statements.

Five Benefits of DOT Drug Testing

DOT drug testing cutoff levels include expanded opiates

There are many benefits of DOT drug testing. Understanding these makes it easier for you to find a company that will take care of the testing for your drivers. It will allow you to remain compliant, and ensure that you aren’t endangering anyone out on the roads.

You Hire Better Drivers

You have the ability to hire better drivers when there is DOT drug testing being conducted. This way, you can learn more about what they are doing in their spare time. If you have a drug test done prior to extending a position, you can learn whether they are clean or not. If the test comes back positive, it shows you don’t want them on your team.

As such, your company is going to have better drivers on the road. This can minimize accidents and avoid problems with employees calling out or not providing the superior customer service you are known for.

You Maintain Driver Integrity

Drivers are less likely to do drugs when they know that they could be called for a drug test at any time. When you identify that you are a drug free workplace, they should respect this. However, testing is the only way to know for sure and keep everyone honest.

You Sort Out the “Bad Seeds”

Some people don’t care. They don’t care about the rules or about the legal implications of being caught. These are not the types of people you want working for you. With a drug test, you can sort out the bad employees when they test positive for one drug or another.

Employees are Less Likely to Use

You don’t want to deal with any drivers who are under the influence of drugs. This is because you don’t want the risk that they will get into an accident. An accident in a truck can cause serious damage, and result in injuries and potentially deaths. This is not something you want associated with your company and therefore it’s best to deal with everything in a timely fashion.

When you know more about what employees are doing, you keep them honest. When they know that they could be tested at any time, they are less likely to do drugs. If they do want to do drugs, they know not to work for you because you are going to find out if they are using.

It Can Be Done Randomly

Understanding DOT Drug Testing — Datco Services Corporation

By taking advantage of drug testing, you can also have it scheduled randomly. This means that drivers will have no idea as to when they will be tested. It can all be done by a third party, too, so you don’t have to remember when.

When you hire a company that handles all of the drug testing on behalf of your company, you learn more about what’s being done. You don’t have to be the one responsible. This means that you can maintain a “hands-off” approach with it all. When there is a third party taking care of everything, it allows you to remain neutral to all that’s going on.

Contact us for more information.

BENEFITS OF DRUG TESTING

Urine drug screen: Uses, procedure, detection times, and results

WHY EVERY COMPANY SHOULD DRUG TEST

Each year drug and alcohol abuse costs U.S. companies billions of dollars, which includes turnover rates for employees, unexcused absences, lower productivity, accidents, and increased workers’ compensation claims.  According to the National Safety Council, employees who abuse prescription drugs are two to five times more likely to take unexcused absences, be late for work, be injured or violent at work, file workers’ compensation claims, and quit or be fired within one year of employment.

  • The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency (NCADD) reports 70% of the 14.8 million Americans who abuse drugs are employed.
  • More than 74% of all current illegal drug users are employed and cause up to 40% of industrial fatalities in the US according to the National Drug-Free Workplace Alliance (NDWA).
  • 50% of workplace accidents and up to 40% of employee theft is caused by drug abuse according to the U.S. Department of Justice. 

DRUG TESTING BENEFITS

Testing your current and potential employees can help prevent and detect workplace drug abuse. The most common drugs at the root of the substance abuse issue include marijuana, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, methamphetamine, and opioids. Employers with a drug-testing program in place report:

  • Reduced employee healthcare costs
  • Improvements in employee morale, productivity, and performance
  • Decreased absenteeism, accidents, downtime, turnover, and theft
  • Compliance with state or federal regulations
  • Being able to identify and refer employees who have drug and/or alcohol problems
  • Providing a safe workplace for employees

Use DISA’s “Cost of Drug Abuse” Calculator to estimate the cost of drug abuse at your company!

TYPES OF DRUG TESTS

There are a variety of employment-related drug and alcohol tests used by employers. For more than 30 years, DISA has worked to make the drug testing process easier and more streamlined for customers. 

Regardless of your industry or unique requirements, DISA has the tools, and best-in-business practices necessary to help you create a drug-testing program that will work for you and your company. Before making a decision, we encourage you to research the benefits of each type to determine what best matches your company’s needs.

Contact us for more information.

Why Drug Testing Is Important

Although many aspects of society are harmed by illicit drug use and abuse, it is especially detrimental in the workplace. Not only can it lower the productivity and revenue of a business, but it can also place employees at risk. In fact, depending on the line of work, the drug abuse of an employee could have fatal consequences. Luckily, employers these days are able to test for illicit drug use and implement strategies to pursue drug-free workplaces. Today we’re discussing why drug testing is important and how to employ it effectively.

Why Drug Testing Is Important

Why Drug Testing Is Important

Drug Testing – National Research

Safety. Drug use can impair a person’s judgment and increase safety risks. This is especially concerning in certain industries, such as construction, in which using drugs or alcohol at work could cause an injury or even a fatality. As employee drug abuse causes as much as 50% of all on-the-job accidents (source), this is not a matter to be taken lightly. Plus, drug testing can improve the quality of life of employees and their families.

Performance. Workers under the influence of drugs may struggle to stay on task, letting their minds drift toward problems that aren’t related to their work. Drug testing allows employers to target those employees who aren’t reaching their full potential due to illicit drug use, removing weak links and improving their company’s performance overall.

Productivity & Profits. Substance abuse or addiction can lead to missed deadlines and decreased attendance. Dwindling productivity will result in lower profits as well—after all, if your company isn’t producing work at a steady rate, how can you expect to maintain consistent profits? Finally, it’s important to note that drug abuse also causes up to 40% of employee theft (source), an additional drain on profits.

Turnover Rates. Pre-employment drug testing is a great way to find employees who fit your company’s goals and standards. In addition, it reduces the likelihood that you will have to fire a new employee down the road, allowing you to retain valuable workers and decrease your turnover rate.

Medical Costs. Substance abuse can dramatically increase a person’s medical costs. In fact, business owners lose an estimated $140 billion annually due to drug use (source). Workplace drug testing allows employers to decrease their health insurance premiums and health costs by reducing on-the-job accidents and drug-related illnesses. It’s a win-win situation, improving the health of employees and reducing costs for employers.

Although most employers focus their drug testing efforts on job candidates, more and more employers are testing current employees as well through random programs. Although 10% of employed Americans between the ages 18 and 49 admit to illicit drug use (source), with the right resources and programs, this persistent problem can become a thing of the past.

If you’re looking to implement a drug-free workplace through pre-employment or random testing, contact us.

DOT Modifies Employee Drug Testing for Truck & Bus Drivers

COVID-19 leads to changes in drug testing rules that give employers more flexibility. David Sparkman APR 02, 2020

Because of the Coronavirus epidemic, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has made changes in its drug and alcohol testing regulations regarding employees in safety-sensitive positions, including interstate truck and bus drivers.

On March 23, DOT issued a guidance saying, “The nation’s transportation industries, which are not immune to the impacts and disruptions resulting from the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S., are playing a vital role in mitigating the effects of COVID-19. DOT is committed to maintaining public safety while providing maximum flexibility to allow transportation industries to conduct their operations safely and efficiently during this period of national emergency.”

The department’s guidance states that while DOT-regulated employers must continue to comply with training and testing requirements, DOT recognizes that compliance may not be possible in certain areas due to the unavailability of program resources. These may include access to collection sites, Breath Alcohol Technicians (BAT), Medical Review Officers (MRO) and Substance Abuse Professionals (SAP).

“You should make a reasonable effort to locate the necessary resources,” DOT says. “As a best practice at this time, employers should consider mobile collection services for required testing if the fixed-site collection facilities are not available.”

If an employer is unable to conduct training or testing due to COVID-19-related supply shortages, facility closures, state or locally imposed quarantine requirement, or other impediments, it must continue to comply with applicable agency requirements to document why a test was not completed.

If training or testing can be conducted later (for example, supervisor reasonable suspicion training at the next available opportunity, random testing later in the selection period, follow-up testing later in the month), you are to do so in accordance with applicable modal regulations.

If employers are unable to conduct testing due to the unavailability of testing resources, the underlying modal regulations continue to apply. For example, without a “negative” pre-employment drug test result, an employer may not permit a prospective or current employee to perform any DOT safety-sensitive functions. In the case of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the individual cannot be hired.

DOT said it is aware that some employees have expressed concern about potential public health risks associated with the collection and testing process in the current environment. Employers should review the applicable DOT agency requirements for testing to determine whether flexibilities allow for collection and testing at a later date.

DOT reminds employers that it is their responsibility to evaluate the circumstances of the employee’s refusal to test and determine whether or not the employee’s actions should be considered a refusal under the regulations.

“However, as the COVID-19 outbreak poses a novel public health risk, DOT asks employers to be sensitive to employees who indicate they are not comfortable or are afraid to go to clinics or collection sites,” the guidance says. “DOT asks employers to verify with the clinic or collection site that it has taken the necessary precautions to minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19.”

DOT also urges employers to revisit back-up plans to ensure the plans are current and effective for the current outbreak conditions. For example, these plans should include availability of collectors and collection sites and BAT, and alternate/back-up MRO, as these may have changed as a result of the national emergency.

Employers should also have regular communications with service agents regarding the service agent’s availability and capability to support their drug and alcohol testing program.

Drug testing service agents—test result collection sites, BAT, laboratory, MRO, or SAP—should continue to provide services to DOT-regulated employers if it is possible to do so in accordance with state or local mandates related to COVID-19. 

“Should you have concerns about COVID-19 when testing or interacting with employees, please follow your company policy, directions from state and local officials, and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),” DOT recommends.

Truck and Bus Drivers

In accordance with these guidelines, DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has made changes to its regulations applying to drug and alcohol testing for commercial drivers that are scheduled to remain in place until June 30.

FMCSA said it is aware that “disruptions caused by the COVID-19 national emergency are interfering with, and in some cases, may be preventing, employer and driver compliance with current drug and alcohol testing requirements.”

These are the actions recommended by the agency for FMCSA-regulated employers who employ truck and bus drivers in interstate commerce and are unable to conduct certain kinds of testing because of the demand for transportation of essential supplies:

Random Testing. Employers are required by federal regulations to ensure that the dates for administering random alcohol and controlled substances tests are spread reasonably throughout the calendar year. DOT guidance further recommends that the employer perform random selections and tests at least quarterly.

If, due to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 national emergency, you are unable to perform random selections and tests sufficient to meet the random testing rate for a given testing period in order to achieve the required 50% rate for drug testing, and 10% for alcohol testing, you should make up the tests by the end of the year.

In addition, FMCSA says employers should document in writing the specific reasons why you were unable to conduct tests on drivers randomly selected, and any actions taken to locate an alternative collection site or other testing resources.

Pre-Employment Testing. If an employer is unable to conduct a pre-employment controlled substances test, in accordance with federal regulations, it cannot allow a prospective employee to perform DOT safety-sensitive functions until having received a negative pre-employment test result, unless the exception in the regulations for trip lease drivers applies.

A trip-lease driver is generally a driver employed by one carrier, but who is temporarily leased to another carrier for one or more trips generally for a time period less than 30 days. This also applies to volunteer organizations that use loaned drivers.

Post-Accident Testing. Employers are required to test each driver for alcohol and controlled substances as soon as practicable following an accident. However, if the employer is unable to administer an alcohol test within eight hours after an accident or a controlled substance test within 32 hours following the accident, due to disruptions caused by the national emergency, the specific reasons why the test could not be conducted must be documented in writing.

Reasonable Suspicion Testing. The employer should document in writing the specific reasons why the test could not be conducted as required. Make sure to include any efforts made to mitigate the effect of the disruption, such as trying to locate an alternative collection site. FMCSA says this documentation should be provided in addition to documentation of the observations leading to a test, as required by agency regulations.

Follow current regulations addressing situations in which reasonable suspicion testing is not conducted, set forth in FMCSA’s guidance in regard to this part of the regulations.

Return-to-Duty (RTD) Testing. In accordance with current regulations, an employer must not allow a driver to perform any safety-sensitive functions until the RTD test is conducted and there is a negative result. Nothing is changed in this regard.

Follow-Up Testing. If testing cannot be completed, the employer should document in writing the specific reasons why the testing could not be conducted in accordance with the follow-up testing plan; you should include any efforts you made to mitigate the effect of the disruption, such as trying to locate an alternative collection site. You should conduct the test as soon as practicable.