Positive Drug Tests for U.S. Workers at Highest Level in 20 Years

First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication
Quest-Diagnostics.jpg
Photo: Sundry Photography/iStockphoto

Secaucus, NJ — Paced by a continuing increase in marijuana positivity rates, the positive drug test rate for U.S. workers reached its highest level in two decades in 2021, according to an annual analysis conducted by lab services provider Quest Diagnostics.

Researchers examined the results of more than 11 million samples taken last year for Quest Diagnotics’ Drug Testing Index from the combined U.S. workforce – both the general workforce and employees in safety-sensitive jobs who undergo federally mandated drug testing (e.g., pilots, truck drivers, train conductors and nuclear power workers). Overall, 4.6% of the samples tested positive – up from 4.4% in 2020 and the highest percentage observed since 2001, when it was also 4.6. That figure is more than 30% higher than the 30-year low of 3.5% recorded in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

For all workers, urine samples had a marijuana positivity rate of 3.9% last year – the highest ever recorded. That percentage is up 8.3% from 3.6 in 2020 and up 50% from 2.6 in 2016. Among the federally mandated, safety-sensitive workforce, urine samples had a marijuana positivity rate of 0.86% last year, up from 0.79% in 2020 – an 8.9% increase.

The industries with the highest overall positivity rate increases were transportation and warehousing (to 5.5% from 4.4%), other services (to 6.6% from 5.7%) and retail trade (to 7% from 6.2%). Mining (to 3.7% from 3.1%), construction (to 4.6% from 4.1%) and manufacturing (to 4.5% from 4.1%) all saw increases of at least 0.5 percentage points. Finance and insurance was the only industry not to show an annual increase, remaining at 3.3%.

Other key findings:

  • The overall positivity rate among the federally mandated, safety-sensitive workforce remained steady at 2.2% – but that’s up 4.8% since 2017.
  • For federally mandated, safety-sensitive workers, the positivity rates for amphetamines and cocaine increased 7.8% and 5%, respectively.
  • In the general workforce, positive urine tests for opiates fell 19%, and have fallen 56.4% over the past five years.
  • Post-incident positivity among the general workforce has increased 26% over the past five years. Post-incident urine tests for marijuana and cocaine were up 63.4% and 266.7%, respectively, compared with pre-employment testing.

McCraren Compliance offers many opportunities in safety training to help circumvent accidents. Please take a moment to visit our calendar of classes to see what we can do to help your safety measures from training to consulting.

DOT proposes oral fluid drug testing as an alternative method

First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication

Washington — The Department of Transportation has issued a proposed rule that would revise industry drug testing protocol by adding oral fluid testing as an alternative to urine testing for commercial motor vehicle operators and other safety-sensitive transportation workers.

In a notice published in the Feb. 28 Federal Register, DOT claims the proposal “will give employers a choice that will help combat employee cheating on urine drug tests and provide a more economical, less intrusive means of achieving the safety goals” of the transportation industry’s drug and alcohol testing program.

The proposed rule stems from a Department of Health and Human Services final rule allowing federal agencies to collect and test oral fluid specimens as part of their drug testing programs. Under the rule, effective Jan. 1, 2020, agencies must initiate individual rulemaking to begin the process of allowing oral fluid testing as an option.

“The advantage of every oral fluid collection is that it will be directly observed, as opposed to most urine collections, which are unobserved,” DOT states. “While directly observed urine specimen collections have long been the most effective method for preventing individuals from cheating on their drug tests by substituting or adulterating their specimens, directly observed urine collection may only be done in certain circumstances due to employee privacy concerns. Unlike directly observed urine collections, an oral fluid collection is much less intrusive on the tested employee’s privacy.”

The agency adds that it is not proposing to eliminate urine drug testing.

HHS is still considering amendments to proposed guidelines – issued in September 2020 – concerning the use of hair samples as a method for drug testing federal employees and safety-sensitive employees in federally regulated industries, the notice states.

Comments on the proposed rule are due March 30.


McCraren Compliance can help you understand and comply with FMCSA, USDOT and ADOT and ensure your drivers and your vehicles operate safely and efficiently.

Call us Today at 888-758-4757 or email us at info@mccrarencompliance.com to schedule your free FMCSA Compliance Assessment.

Marijuana tops list of substances identified in CMV drivers’ failed drug tests: FMCSA

red-semi_wet-road.jpg

Photo: vitpho/iStockphoto

Washington — The first report to use data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s new Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse shows that, from the database’s Sept. 28 launch through May, marijuana was the most common substance found in positive drug and alcohol tests among commercial motor vehicle drivers.

The national online database – aimed at enhancing road safety by providing, in real time, the names of CMV drivers who fail drug and alcohol tests – identified 10,388 positive tests for marijuana. Cocaine (3,192) and methamphetamine (2,184) were the next most common substances detected.

Under federal regulations, motor carriers must conduct pre-employment drug testing in addition to random testing. Employees who test positive are prohibited from performing safety-sensitive functions, which includes operating a CMV.

According to the report, 19,849 CMV drivers had at least one violation and were unable to operate until completing the return-to-duty process – including 15,682 drivers who had yet to begin the process.

In an article published June 15 in the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association’s Land Line magazine, Amber Schweer, supervisor of OOIDA’s drug and alcohol consortium, said the legalization of marijuana for medicinal and/or recreational use in numerous states may be complicating the problem.

“There is a huge misconception that just because it is legal on the state level that it will be OK on the federal level,” Schweer said. “That is not the case.”

CBD products also figured to factor into the findings, Schweer added. In a Feb. 18 policy and compliance notice, the Department of Transportation cautioned that CBD products may contain higher levels of THC – the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana – than DOT allows in a controlled substance. DOT added that CBD use is not a “legitimate medical explanation” for a safety-sensitive employee who tests positive for marijuana.

“There are so many companies that claim you won’t test positive using their product when in reality they cannot guarantee that,” Schweer said. “Drivers are not heeding the warnings that are put out there and, unfortunately, are facing expensive and detrimental consequences to their career.”

Overall, the clearinghouse observed 21,156 positive tests for substance misuse among CMV drivers during the reporting period. Multiple substances can appear in positive tests, FMCSA notes in the report, which does not include the total number of tests conducted. Future reports are set to be released monthly. Employers made more than 905,000 queries into the clearinghouse since it was fully implemented Jan. 6.

FMCSA seeks to close ‘loophole’ that lets CMV drivers who fail drug, alcohol tests get licenses

failed-drug-test.jpg

Photo: KLH49/iStockphoto

Washington — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is seeking input on a proposed rule that would ban states from issuing commercial driver’s licenses to operators with existing drug or alcohol violations, in an effort to eliminate a “regulatory loophole.”

The proposed rule, published in the April 28 Federal Register, also would prohibit state driver’s licensing agencies from renewing, upgrading and transferring CDLs for those operators.

FMCSA contends that although its online Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse – fully implemented in January – provides real-time national data on commercial motor vehicle drivers who have failed drug and alcohol tests, most states remain unaware that the violations have occurred.

“Consequently, there is no federal requirement that SDLAs take any action on the license of drivers subject to that prohibition,” FMCSA states. “As a result, a driver can continue to hold a valid [commercial learner’s permit] or CDL, even while prohibited from operating a CMV under FMCSA’s drug and alcohol regulations.”

Provisions of the clearinghouse require employers and medical review officers to report information about drivers who test positive for drugs or alcohol, or who refuse to comply with testing. Substance misuse professionals must report information about drivers who participate in the return-to-duty drug and alcohol rehabilitation process.

The proposal outlines two possible methods for determining the process by which SDLAs would access driver-specific information from the clearinghouse:

  • Require SDLAs to initiate a mandatory downgrade of the CLP and CDL driving privilege. Drivers would be required to complete the [return-to-duty] process and comply with any state-established procedures for reinstatement of the CMV driving privilege.
  • Provide SDLAs with optional notice of a driver’s prohibited status from the clearinghouse. The states would decide whether and how they would use the information under state law and policy to prevent a driver from operating a CMV.

Under the second alternative, SDLAs could choose to receive “push notifications” from the clearinghouse when drivers licensed in their state are prohibited from operating CMVs because of violations of drug or alcohol regulations.

Comments on the proposed rule are due June 29.

DOT weighs in on CBD products: Workers in safety-sensitive jobs should be cautious

CBD-oil.jpg
Photo: StephM2506/iStockphoto

Washington — CBD products may have higher levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC – the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana – than the Department of Transportation allows in a non-controlled substance, the agency cautions in a Feb. 18 policy and compliance notice, adding that CBD use is not a “legitimate medical explanation” for a safety-sensitive employee who tests positive for marijuana.

The Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 – also known as the Farm Bill – altered the definition of “marijuana” under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Hemp-derived products with a THC concentration of 0.3% or less are no longer considered controlled substances.

In response to inquiries about whether safety-sensitive employees (e.g., pilots, school bus drivers, truck drivers, transit vehicle operators, aircraft maintenance personnel, train engineers and ship captains) can use CBD products, DOT notes that although it requires testing for marijuana and not CBD, many CBD products have misleading labels.

“The products could contain higher levels of THC than what the product label states,” the notice states. “The Food and Drug Administration does not currently certify the levels of THC in CBD products, so there is no federal oversight to ensure that the labels are accurate.”

Employees who claim to use only CBD products can test positive for marijuana and run afoul of DOT’s drug-testing regulations.

“[Because] the use of CBD products could lead to a positive drug test result, [DOT]-regulated safety-sensitive employees should exercise caution when considering whether to use CBD products,” the notice states.

Drugs and Sexual Assault: What You Should Know

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Although there are many substances that can cause you to pass out or lose control, certain drugs – like GHB, Rohypnol, ketamine, and Ecstasy – are referred to as “sexual assault” drugs because sexual predators often use them to get control over their victims. Learn more about these drugs.