FMCSA grants flexibility in random drug-testing requirements during COVID-19 pandemic

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Drug test
Because some drug-testing facilities may be closed or operating at reduced capacity during COVID-19, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is offering flexibility for carriers that are unable to meet testing requirements because of the pandemic.

WASHINGTON — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is offering flexibility to motor carriers that are unable to comply with random drug and alcohol testing requirements because of closures or restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a July 6 notice from Jim Mullin, FMCSA’s acting administrator, the agency noted that even though the U.S. is in a phased re-opening, “the pace of return-to-normal operations will vary across the country” and that some drug-testing facilities may be closed or operating at reduced capacity. Because of this, some carriers may find it impossible to fully comply with minimum percentage random testing rates or to spread administration of random testing “reasonably” throughout the calendar year (49 CFR 382.305(b)(1) and (2) and 49 CFR 382.305(k), respectively).

The notice states that FMCSA “will provide reasonable enforcement flexibility during this unprecedented pandemic while also meeting FMCSA’s core safety mission.” The notice emphasizes that this flexibility is not a suspension of random testing requirements and that “employers capable of meeting these requirements must continue to do so.”

According to FMCSA, each company must still select drivers for random testing at the required rates during 2020 — 50% of the average number of driver positions for controlled substance (drug) testing and 10% for alcohol testing.

If a random test cannot be completed because of the pandemic, the employer must keep written records of the reasons for noncompliance, such as closure of testing facilities or lack of testing personnel. Employers must also document steps taken to find alternative testing resources.

Carriers who cannot ensure the dates for random testing are spread throughout the calendar year should likewise document the reasons for noncompliance, such as driver furloughs due to COVID-19.

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