FMCSA Could Suspend Drug Testing to Protect Truckers From Coronavirus
Washington D.C. – The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is considering suspending federally mandated drug testing rules for commercial motor vehicle (CMV) operators in response to the ongoing fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Right now, discussions are being had within the Agency to place a “possible moratorium” on federally mandated drug testing programs for commercial drivers.
In recent days, numerous issues have arisen relating to the safe and efficient drug testing of professional truck drivers amid concerns over the coronavirus.
Today, Truckload Carrier’s Association (TCA) President, John Lyboldt, addressed some of these ongoing concerns.
In an email to members, Lyboldt said, “On Friday, March 13, President Trump mentioned specific labs that are prevalent trucking industry drug testing facilities as active laboratories in testing for COVID-19. Many drivers and carriers, after hearing those comments, have expressed concerns over drug testing because fleets use these labs to process their federally mandated drug testing programs and they do not want to be exposed to the virus.”
He confirmed the FMCSA is considering issuing new guidance to alter or suspend federal rules related to random drug testing.
“FMCSA is currently engaged in discussion surrounding a possible moratorium on this issue,” Lyboldt indicated.
However, he pointed out, “but no decisions have been made yet.”
Dave Heller, TCA’s Vice President of Government Affairs, tells Transportation Nation Network (TNN), “We’re engaged in conversations that we never thought were possible.”
Heller expressed the top priority for stakeholders is the health of drivers.
“We are looking for guidance that can aid in keeping our drivers safe,” he stressed.
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Another problem for carriers, Heller says, is that many drug testing facilities are temporarily shut down.
In some cases, drivers are having to travel extended distances to find a lab that is open.
“It’s a real issue. The Agency is aware of the problem and is working non-stop to address some of these concerns.”
What about testing for new drivers?
Heller also indicated TCA members are expressing concern over the lack of available testing facilities for new driver hires.
“Carriers are hiring drivers all the time, so what do they do with new applicant testing? We are looking for guidance,” he reiterated.
Still, Heller says it is “not a decision to take lightly” and he’s confident the FMCSA is doing its “due diligence” on the matter.
Random Testing Rate Increased in 2020
In December of last year, the FMCSA announced it would be increasing the minimum annual percentage rate for random controlled substances testing for drivers requiring a CDL.
As of January 1, 2020, the minimum annual percentage rate for random controlled substances testing was increased from 25 percent to 50 percent of the average number of driver positions.
Results from an 2018 survey of 1,552 carriers (comprising of 300,635 CDL drivers) reported a positive rate for controlled substances random testing increased to 1.0 percent.
Federal rules stipulate that a greater than or equal to 1.0 percent result in a given calendar year triggers the effective doubling of the random drug test rate for the next calendar year.
In February of 2020, the Agency released the first batch of data from its newly launched Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse.
In the first weeks of the Clearinghouse, the FMCSA reported it had detected and identified nearly 8,000 positive substance abuse tests of commercial drivers.
TNN has reached out to the FMCSA for comment.
So far, we have not heard back.