FMCSA eases controlled substance testing for returning drivers

FMCSA eases controlled substance testing for returning drivers
Under the FMCSA waiver, the carrier isn’t prohibited from drug testing anyway, but the requirements are intended to make it easier and cheaper to put drivers back to work.

WASHINGTON — In a June 5, 2020 announcement, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) eased the process of returning to work for drivers who have been furloughed or laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The announcement focuses on 49 CFR 382.301. Subparagraph “A” of that regulation requires pre-employment drug testing for drivers who are newly hired, but also applies to those returning from a furlough, lay off or other period of unemployment.

Subparagraph “B” provides an exception to the pre-employment testing requirement. The employer can skip the pre-employment testing if the driver returns to work within 30-days and either participated in the carrier’s random testing program for the prior 12 months or was actually (randomly) tested within in the prior six months.

The FMCSA waiver temporarily extends the 30-day time period to 90-days.

The carrier isn’t prohibited from drug testing anyway, but the requirements are intended to make it easier and cheaper to put drivers back to work. Carriers are still responsible for requesting the driver’s record from the Drug and Alcohol database.

The FMCSA action was a result of an executive order issued by President Donald Trump on May 19. The order, No. 13924, defined U.S. policy to combat the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic with the same energy as the fight against the virus itself. The agency expressed concern that carriers would incur the costs of testing of the furloughed drivers just as they were expanding operations to pre-pandemic levels. The waiver also addresses the issue of trying to arrange drug testing for large numbers of returning drivers in a short time frame.

Although not addressed by the announcement, easing of drug testing requirements also eliminates the period of waiting for results of the testing to be reported, which typically takes one or two business days but can take much longer under some circumstances. Drivers who return to work under the waiver can begin driving sooner.

The temporary waiver was effective June 5 and expires on September 30, 2020.

The waiver also specifies reporting requirements that carriers must follow if any of the drivers who returned under the drug-testing waiver are involved in an accident. Carriers must report accidents to the FMCSA within 5 business days and must specify that the driver was operating under the terms of the waiver.

The FMCSA announcement states that the extension will not negatively impact safety because the requirements for prior participation and pre-employment check with the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse are still in effect.

Overall, carriers who opt to take advantage of the waiver will find it easier and faster to get drivers back to work.

Cliff Abbott is an experienced commercial vehicle driver and owner-operator who still holds a CDL in his home state of Alabama. In nearly 40 years in trucking, he’s been an instructor and trainer and has managed safety and recruiting operations for several carriers. Having never lost his love of the road, Cliff has written a book and hundreds of songs and has been writing for The Trucker for more than a decade.
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