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Truck Driver

FMCSA Extends Waiver for Some Driver Drug Tests

July 18, 2020
COVID-19 changes in pre-employment drug test rules remain in place until September.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has once again extended the waiver of random drug and alcohol testing for certain interstate transportation employers involved in the Coronavirus response to the end of 2020 and might possibly into 2021.

The exemption explicitly applies to truckers hauling medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19, and supplies of medical equipment necessary for community safety, sanitation and prevention of community transmission of the virus, such as masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap and disinfectants.

It also applies to road transportation of livestock and livestock feed. However, carriers should note that it no longer covers routine commercial deliveries that include mixed loads with a nominal quantity of qualifying emergency relief supplies and equipment.

The agency earlier had announced that it would extend the waiver of pre-employment testing for truck and bus drivers to Sept. 30. Earlier this year, the agency originally instituted the waivers along with relaxing hours-of-services regulations for those truckers who were hauling supplies deemed essential for responding to the pandemic.

Specifically, FMCSA says that through the end of the year it will be flexible when it finds that, due to COVID-19, transportation employers are unable to comply with the minimum annual percentage rates for random substance abuse testing, or are unable to space the test dates “reasonably throughout the calendar year.”

Department of Transportation Deputy Administrator and head of FMCSA Jim Mullen says, “FMCSA is continuing the exemption because the Presidentially-declared emergency remains in place, and because a continued exemption is needed to support direct emergency assistance for some supply chains.”

Employers must continue to select drivers at the required rate of 50% of their average number of driver positions for controlled substances, and 10% 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, notes attorney Kathryn J. Russo of the law firm of Jackson Lewis.

In addition, 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, Russo points out.

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