Every industry across the nation is experiencing the impacts of COVID-19 in some way. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is no different. The FMCSA recently released an announcement allowing temporary flexibility for the Department of Transportation (DOT) random drug and alcohol testing requirements under 49 CFR Part 382.
A State of Emergency
On March 13, the President declared a national emergency in response to the effects of the Coronavirus Disease. The nation as a whole is returning to normal through a phased re-opening. However, the pace of that phasing varies for each region of the country. That being said, motor carrier employers in more affected areas may reopen more slowly than others.
The FMCSA permits agencies to exercise discretion when enforcing testing during this time of national emergency. The leniency applies to motor carriers who are unable to meet the current threshold for random controlled substance testing requirements. Discretionary decisions may include, for example, limited availability of testing facilities or testing personnel. You can read the full statement from the FMCSA here.
Minimum Requirements & Documentation
As announced earlier this year, the DOT doubled the minimum percentage rate required for FMCSA random controlled substance testing. The rate for controlled substance testing is 50 percent of drivers, with alcohol testing at 10 percent. Employers must still conduct random tests for 50 percent of the average number of driver positions continuing to work. Attempts must be made to administer tests spread reasonably throughout the calendar year. If they are unable to do so, there should be records indicating why. Lack of testing facilities and resources may also accompany other factors such as furloughs and layoffs.
Employers must provide documentation for any and all instances of noncompliance. Inability to complete testing as a result of the public health emergency needs documentation specifying the reason. Additionally, employers will document steps taken to identify alternative testing sites and/or resources.
Notably, the FMCSA emphasizes that any employer able to continue meeting their requirements must do so. The notice does not suspend the current testing regulations. Leniency applies only to employers who are unable to comply due to the national emergency.
The FMCSA emphasized the balance between regulation compliance and its core values. The agency understands the need for reasonable enforcement flexibility during this time while maintaining their core mission of safety. Find additional information and resources from the FMCSA related to COVID-19 here.
- On July 27, 2020