FMCSA Holds the Line on Drug and Alcohol Testing Rules
Washington D.C. – On Monday, the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) issued much needed guidance to trucking stakeholders relating to compliance with federal drug and alcohol testing requirements.
Last week Transportation Nation Network (TNN) was the first to break the news that officials within the DOT and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) were grappling with the possibility of suspending federally mandated drug testing rules for commercial motor vehicle (CMV) operators in response to the ongoing fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stakeholders have directed concerns to DOT officials over the lack of available testing facilities and sending drivers to be tested at sites currently conducting COVID-19 testing.
Fear of exposing truck drivers to the coronavirus in these facilities prompted the FMCSA to reconsider its requirements, multiple sources confirmed to TNN.
However, in new guidance issued on Monday, the DOT seems to be drawing a line in the sand, especially with regard to pre-employment screenings.
“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,” the DOT said.
While the DOT said it is committed to “providing maximum flexibility to allow transportation industries to conduct their operations safely and efficiently during this period of national emergency,” officials were unambiguous in their expectations.
“As a DOT-regulated employer, you must comply with applicable DOT training and testing requirements,” the guidance states.
For carriers dealing with the challenges of having to send drivers extended distances to find available testing facilities, the DOT said, “You should make a reasonable effort to locate the necessary resources. 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.”
Further, the DOT instructed, “If you are unable to conduct DOT drug or alcohol training or testing due to COVID-19-related supply shortages, facility closures, State or locally imposed quarantine requirements, or other impediments, you are to continue to comply with existing applicable DOT Agency requirements to document why a test was not completed.”
Officials also addressed the health risk concerns.
“DOT 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.”
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 from 25 percent to 50 percent of the average number of driver positions.
Doubling the number of random drug tests amid the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic is presenting increasing difficulties for carriers.
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The DOT addressed this concern by noting the testing could be “conducted later” so long as carriers do so in “accordance with applicable modal regulations.”
Lastly, officials weighed in on refusals.
The DOT reiterated it is still the responsibility of the motor carrier 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.
However, DOT officials urged employers to “be sensitive to employees who indicate they are not comfortable or are afraid to go to clinics or collection sites,” and “verify with the clinic or collection site that it has taken the necessary precautions to minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19.”
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