Notice of Enforcement Discretion Determination: Random Controlled Substance and Alcohol Testing

July 6, 2020

NOTICE OF ENFORCEMENT DISCRETION DETERMINATION:
RANDOM CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE AND ALCOHOL TESTING

On March 13, 2020, the President declared a national emergency under 42 U.S.C. § 5191(b), related to the effects of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is aware that the motor carrier industry continues to experience operational disruptions caused by the COVID-19 public health emergency. As the Nation engages in a phased re-opening, the pace of return to normal operations will vary across the country. In some regions of the United States, motor carrier employers subject to controlled substance (drug) and alcohol testing under 49 CFR part 382 may be unable to comply with certain testing requirements due to the ongoing impacts of the emergency.

In recognition of these barriers to full compliance in some locations, the Agency may exercise discretion to determine not to enforce the minimum annual percentage random testing rates for drugs and alcohol, and the requirement that each employer ensure that the dates for administering random drug and alcohol tests are spread reasonably throughout the calendar year, as set forth in 49 CFR 382.305(b)(1) and (2) and 49 CFR 382.305(k), respectively. FMCSA emphasizes, however, that employers capable of meeting these requirements must continue to do so.

Employers must continue to select drivers at the required rate of 50 percent of their average number of driver positions for controlled substances, and 10 percent for random alcohol testing during the calendar year 2020.  If a test is unable to be completed due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, the motor carrier must maintain written documentation of the specific reasons for non-compliance. For example, employers should document closures or restricted use of testing facilities or the unavailability of testing personnel. Additionally, employers should document actions taken to identify alternative testing sites or other testing resources.

Similarly, employers who are unable to ensure that the dates for administering random controlled substances and alcohol tests are spread reasonably throughout the calendar year should document the specific reasons why they did not meet this requirement. For example, in addition to the lack of available testing facilities or personnel, there may be other factors, such as prolonged or intermittent driver furloughs due to the impacts of COVID-19.

The Agency issues this Notice to assure employers unable to fully comply with the requirements identified above that we will provide reasonable enforcement flexibility during this unprecedented pandemic, while also meeting FMCSA’s core safety mission. This Notice is not intended, and should not be perceived, as suspending the current random testing requirements.

This Notice pertains to employers’ noncompliance, during calendar year 2020, with the random testing requirements described above. The Agency may exercise enforcement discretion in connection with motor carrier investigations occurring in calendar year 2021.

This Notice:

  1. Acknowledges the current and anticipated disruptions to the administration of drug and alcohol testing caused by the COVID-19 public health emergency;
  2. Considers the interests of public safety and the continuing need to free up medical supplies and facilities for the diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19;
  3. Requires that employers who are capable of complying with 49 CFR 382.305(b) and 49 CFR 382.305(k) must continue to do so; and
  4. Creates no individual rights of action and establishes no precedent for future determinations.

Jim Mullen
Deputy Administrator
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

COVID-19 pandemic: FMCSA extends waiver for certain preemployment drug tests

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Photo: DakotaSmith/iStockphoto

Washington — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has granted to recently furloughed commercial motor vehicle drivers a 90-day waiver from certain preemployment drug testing requirements, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Effective June 5 and set to expire Sept. 30, the waiver amends current regulations requiring drivers to undergo preemployment drug testing and produce a negative test result to their employer before performing safety-sensitive functions, which includes operating a CMV. The regulation offers an exception to drivers who have participated in a testing program within the past 30 days and either:

  • Were tested for controlled substances within the past six months
  • Participated in the random controlled substances testing program for the previous 12 months.

Under the waiver, the exemption period is extended to 90 days from 30.

“As employers begin to recall drivers who were furloughed, laid off or otherwise not working for the company for more than 30 days, the cost and logistical barriers of testing a large influx of drivers in a short time frame are significant, at a time when the commercial trucking and motor coach industry is facing unprecedented economic challenges,” the waiver states. “This problem is further compounded by the reduced availability of controlled substances testing resources due to continued facility closures or other testing impediments caused by the COVID-19 public health emergency.”

FMCSA says offering “temporary regulatory relief from this burden” is possible “without negatively impacting safety.” Further, the agency “reserves the right to revoke” the waiver as a result of drivers’ involvement in incidents or employers’ inability to comply with terms.

The waiver comes in response to President Donald Trump’s Executive Order No. 13924 – Regulatory Relief to Support Economic Recovery, issued May 19.

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

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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.

OSHA Issues Memorandum Clarifying Position on Incentive Program Drug Testing

OSHA recently released a memorandum to its regional administrators to clear up confusion about its 2016 recordkeeping rule changes concerning employer safety incentive programs and post-incident drug testing. The bottom line is that employers are still permitted to implement safety incentive programs and require post-incident drug testing, provided that the actions are taken to promote workplace safety and health and not to penalize employees for reporting work-related injuries or illnesses. The memorandum suggests that consistently enforcing legitimate work rules, whether or not an injury or illness is reported, would be one way for employers to show that their companies are promoting workplace safety and health. The memorandum also states that drug testing to evaluate the root causes of workplace incidents is permissible, but affected employers should drug test every employee whose conduct could have contributed to the incident. LEARN MORE