There are hundreds of alcohol testing devices out there with prices ranging from $100 to over $3,000, how do you know which is going to work for you?
Determine your needs
- Are you buying it just for fun? Something to play with at the bar with the buddies? Then consider purchasing the cheapest one you can find. Just know that it may be unreliable and will never save you at a traffic stop or in court.
- Do you need it for work? Are you looking to upgrade your current devices or are you starting a Drug-Free Workplace Program involving alcohol testing? Move to step 2.
Look on NHTSA’s Conforming Products List
The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration has put together a list of screening and confirmation devices that conform to their standards for device performance and capabilities. These include both Alcohol Screening Devices (ASD) and Evidential Breath Testing Devices (EBT).
- ASD: An Alcohol Screening Device is one that can perform a screening test on a donor. This is the initial test for any alcohol test. ASD’s are not approved for confirmation tests, the second test conducted on a subject who has received a possible positive on a screening test. ASDs have less of an initial investment.
- EBT: An Evidential Breath Testing Device is one that can, according to NHTSA, perform both a screening test and a confirmation test. This is the ideal device to purchase, since most plans require confirmation tests to be conducted as soon as possible after a presumptive positive alcohol screening test (provided a 15 minute wait period is observed to dissipate any possible residual mouth alcohol)—a device that can do both screening and confirmation makes the process go much more smoothly and eliminates the need for more technicians/devices to get involved. EBTs have a higher investment cost, but can easily pay for themselves in the long-run with reduced per-occurrence costs and time-saved.
Consider your budget
Some EBT devices are less expensive than others. If there simply isn’t room in the budget for the most reliable device on the market, then you may be forced to save up, purchase an ASD, and subcontract out the confirmation tests when necessary. This is not an ideal situation, but can work temporarily until the budget is ready for an EBT device. Consider, however, short-term and long-term goals.
- Does the device have warranty (Can you afford to repair it or purchase another device if yours breaks down)?
- How much will you have to spend on refresher training (Required every 5 years for DOT and by many device manufacturers, recommended every two years)?
- What will the ongoing costs be (Consider how much the printout paper, tamper-evident tape, and mouthpieces cost per occurrence, for example)?
Consider training. Every technician using the device needs training on how to use it properly and in accordance with all applicable regulations and in accordance with your company’s or agency’s Drug and Alcohol-Free Workplace Policy.
- Is there training available when and how you need it?
- Is the instructor trained and certified by the manufacturer?
- Will the trainer also train one or more calibration technicians?
If you have reached this far and are ready to find the device and training that is right for you, look no further.