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

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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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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.

ADOT offering virtual training to truck drivers in Mexico

Webinars help officers continue promoting commerce during pandemic

BLU Webinar Presentation

PHOENIX – An Arizona Department of Transportation program that helps truck drivers in Mexico better understand and prepare for safety inspections at the border is using technology to provide virtual training during the current public health situation.

The goal of this training offered by ADOT’s Border Liaison Unit is reducing commercial vehicle wait times at the international border by cutting down on safety problems and other issues that truck drivers must address before leaving commercial ports of entry. That helps make Arizona’s ports more appealing places for trucks to enter the U.S.

Part of ADOT’s Enforcement and Compliance Division, which operates commercial ports of entry, the Border Liaison Unit offered its first training by webinar recently for 30 trucking companies from the Mexican states of Sonora and Baja California. More sessions are planned.

“The webinar was a huge success,” said Officer Frank Cordova of the Border Liaison Unit. “We’re looking to make webinar-based workshops a staple of the training we provide, as it allows us to reach even further into Mexico and the U.S. to continue educating the commercial industry.”

The Border Liaison Unit saw an increase in inquiries from Mexican truckers regarding current emergency restrictions and exemptions for commercial vehicles due to COVID-19. Future sessions will cover safety training previously conducted in person such as electronic log books and critical items officers look for in inspections.

That assistance complements International Border Inspection Qualification training that ADOT has offered in person since 2016. Drivers certified through that program are able to share questions and pictures of their vehicles via WhatsApp and communicate with ADOT officers about potential safety issues before driving to the border.

Meeting this demand with a webinar helps ADOT officers and commercial truck drivers observe social distancing. Longer-term, offering virtual instruction reduces travel expenses.

“I’m very proud of this unit for finding ways to continue to work with our local and international partners in the trucking industry,” Cordova said. “Even a pandemic won’t keep us from doing the job we’re passionate about.”

COVID-19 pandemic: Rest stops must remain open, trucking stakeholders contend

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Washington — Transportation officials and a trucking industry group are calling for highway rest stops to remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic to help ensure the safety and well-being of commercial motor vehicle drivers, especially those transporting items intended to assist in relief efforts.

In a March 17 letter sent to President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear asks that the federal government keep rest stops open. On March 23, Federal Highway Administration Administrator Nicole Nason sounded a similar call in a letter to American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials President Patrick McKenna.

“Closing rest areas where professional drivers can rest may risk the safe and timely delivery of medical supplies, food and other essential goods,” Nason writes. “As we all work to stem the tide of this outbreak, let us also continue to facilitate the safe, efficient and seamless transport of critical supplies across the nation.”

The requests came as multiple states decided to close their rest stops. On March 16, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation shuttered 35 interstate rest stops, including parking access. Two days later, however, in response to pushback from industry stakeholders, the department announced 13 of its facilities would reopen.

During the pandemic, ATA is tracking state declarations concerning various trucking issues, including parking and rest stop availability. As of April 1, three states – Illinois, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania – had enacted partial closures of rest stops. ATA notes that although the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration lacks preemptive authority over states that elect to close rest stops, the agency is “working closely with the states to ensure adequate truck parking and facilities are available.”

According to a March 17 report from Transportation Nation, FMCSA acting administrator Jim Mullen sent a letter that same day to NATSO (formerly known as the National Association of Truck Stop Operators) President and CEO Lisa Mullings, demanding that rest stops remain open.

“As the nation continues to come to grips with the realities of COVID-19, I am writing to let you know that [FMCSA] recognizes the integral role that travel centers and truck stops play in the nation’s supply chain,” Mullen writes. “All of your members must heed the [Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention] guidelines and follow state and local restrictions. In the coming weeks and months, it will be critical that these businesses remain open, 24 hours per day, providing America’s truck drivers with fuel, food, showers, repair services and opportunities to rest.”

A day before Mullen sent his letter, Mullings issued a statement confirming that member facilities remain open.

“Truck drivers are depending on truck stops and travel centers as they deliver food and life-saving supplies,” Mullings said in a March 16 press release. “As the nation confronts the coronavirus outbreak, the country’s travel centers and truck stops are committed to remaining open and serving America’s drivers.”

FMCSA on March 18 issued an expanded national emergency declaration granting temporary exemption from federal hours-of-service regulations to CMV drivers transporting items intended to assist in COVID-19 relief efforts.

COVID-19 pandemic: CVSA postpones annual ‘Roadcheck’

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Greenbelt, MD — In response to industry concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance has postponed its 33rd annual International Roadcheck – an enforcement and safety outreach event initially slated for May 5-7.

According to a March 25 press release, CVSA officials will monitor the pandemic and, “when it’s safe and reasonable to do so,” announce new dates for the event, during which inspectors throughout North America will examine braking systems, lights, tires and other commercial truck and bus components. In the meantime, enforcement personnel will continue to perform daily duties.

“As we urgently respond to this time-sensitive crisis, we must remain diligent and committed to ensuring that the commercial motor vehicles and drivers providing essential goods and services to our communities are following motor carrier safety regulations,” CVSA President John Samis said in the release. “Safety doesn’t take a break. It is always our top priority.

“International Roadcheck has run on schedule for the past 32 years, so its postponement was thoroughly and thoughtfully discussed before we made this decision, but it wasn’t a difficult decision to make. This experience is unprecedented in our modern society and we need to do all that we can to help stop the spread of this global pandemic.”

An expanded national emergency declaration issued March 18 by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration grants temporary exemption from federal hours-of-service regulations to CMV drivers transporting items intended to assist with pandemic relief efforts.

Last year’s International Roadcheck resulted in more than 67,000 inspections and placed 17.9% of vehicles and 4.2% of drivers inspected out of service.

CVSA states in the release that other public enforcement initiatives set for this summer, including Operation Safe Driver Week (July 12-18) and Brake Safety Week (Aug. 23-29), remain as scheduled.

COVID-19 pandemic: Expanded FMCSA emergency declaration includes hours-of-service exemptions

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Washington — Commercial motor vehicle drivers transporting items intended to assist in COVID-19 pandemic relief efforts are temporarily exempt from federal hours-of-service regulations, under an expanded national emergency declaration issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on March 18.

The declaration augments an initial declaration issued March 13 and offers regulatory relief to drivers transporting:

  • Medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19
  • Supplies and equipment necessary for community safety, sanitation and prevention of community transmission of COVID-19, including masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap and disinfectants
  • Food, paper products and other groceries for emergency restocking of distribution centers or stores
  • Immediate precursor raw materials (e.g., paper, plastic or alcohol) that are required and to be used for the manufacture of essential items
  • Fuel
  • Equipment, supplies and people necessary to establish and manage temporary housing and quarantine
  • People designated by federal, state or local authorities for medical, isolation or quarantine purposes
  • People necessary to provide other medical or emergency services

“FMCSA is providing additional regulatory relief to our nation’s commercial drivers to get critically important medical supplies, food and household goods to Americans in need,” acting administrator Jim Mullen said in a March 18 press release. “The nation’s truck drivers are on the front lines of this effort and are critical to America’s supply chain. We will continue to support them and use our authority to protect the health and safety of the American people.”

FMCSA notes that direct assistance excludes routine commercial deliveries, “including mixed loads with a nominal quantity of emergency relief added to obtain the benefits of the emergency declaration.”

“Once the driver has returned to the terminal or the driver’s normal reporting location, the driver must be relieved of all duty and responsibilities and must receive a minimum of 10 hours off duty if transporting property, and eight hours if transporting passengers,” the declaration states.

The World Health Organization on March 11 declared COVID-19 a global pandemic

Passenger drivers believe CMV operators are more risky, survey finds

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Atlanta — Drivers of passenger vehicles have a considerable misunderstanding of the safety performance of commercial motor vehicle operators, results of a recent survey show.

An online survey commissioned by Verizon Connect and Wakefield Research asked 1,000 U.S. adults about CMV road safety. In addition, researchers analyzed data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Survey results show that 83% of the respondents believe they are safer behind the wheel than commercial drivers. That contrasts with the data, which, according to a press release from Verizon Connect, shows that only 3% of severe crashes nationwide involve commercial drivers.

Other findings:

  • 81% of the respondents said they have witnessed a commercial vehicle operator driving dangerously. Of them, 54% reported witnessing a traffic incident involving a CMV.
  • 69% of the respondents said they’ve seen commercial drivers speeding. The next most common unsafe driving behaviors observed were abrupt lane changes (55%), erratic driving (46%) and turning too quickly (37%).

FMCSA reminds passenger vehicle drivers that CMVs “have large blind spots, long stopping distances and limited maneuverability that make it vital for other drivers to focus on safety.” The agency offers a number of tips, including:

  • Don’t drive in a CMV’s blind spot.
  • Pass safely.
  • Anticipate wide turns.
  • Remain focused and be patient.

Proposed rule to amend trucker hours-of-service regs slated for publication in June, DOT says

Washington — June 7 is the target date for publication of a proposed rule intended to add flexibility to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration hours-of-service regulations for commercial truck drivers, according to a Department of Transportation regulatory update released in May.

The comment period on the proposed rule is scheduled to conclude July 26. An FMCSA spokesperson confirmed to Safety+Health that the proposed rule, which was submitted to the White House Office of Management and Budget on March 28, remains under OMB review.

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Sharing the road safely: New report details trucker concerns amid new marijuana laws

Arlington, VA — Concerned about truck drivers sharing the roads with passenger vehicle drivers who are under the influence of marijuana in states where recreational and medicinal use is legal, the American Transportation Research Institute has released a report detailing methods to identify and deter impaired driving.

Published March 13, Marijuana Legalization and Impaired Driving: Solutions for Protecting Our Roadways also addresses safety issues related to marijuana-impaired driving, a top study priority of ATRI’s Research Advisory Committee.

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