Positive drug tests among commercial drivers is on the rise. Data compiled for the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse for the month of September showed an increase in both positive drug tests and drug test refusals. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) oversees the Clearinghouse which provides reports for all commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders.
The strong surge in last month’s positive test results reveals a variety of factors and related problems. However, it’s important to particularly emphasize legislative changes implemented this year as well as our precarious social climate.
As post-pandemic business begins to pick up, companies are hiring more drivers. As a result, there is a greater number of pre-employment drug tests conducted. Additionally, many current drivers trying to return to duty are failing drug tests and now hold a “prohibited status.”
New regulations from the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse cause a significant impact as well. The first regulatory change comes with the implementation of the Clearinghouse database that started this year. Employers must query the Clearinghouse annually to check for substance related violations by current employees. According to the FMCSA, Clearinghouse queries increased 74% during the month of September.
A secondary change with potentially significant impact is the minimum annual percentage rate for random drug testing. In January of 2020, the FMCSA announced the minimum rate of random testing doubled from 25% to 50%. Employers are now testing their drivers at a much higher rate. You can read our FAQ regarding this change here.
Additional data released by the FMCSA in June of this year revealed marijuana as the number one, most common substance found in failed drug tests. Despite the growth in state-level legalization of marijuana, it’s crucial to remember that it is still illegal on a national level. Federal agencies such as the Department of Transportation (DOT) must strictly follow the national legislature. This means illegal substances result in a failed drug test.
The inflation of positive tests among commercial drivers may also be a byproduct of the nation’s socioeconomic state. Millions of people across the country experienced the effects of having COVID-19, unemployment, or both. There is a certain anxiety we felt during the past several months in relation to social, economic, and political aspects. As a result, an increasingly common coping mechanism for many is substance abuse. It will be vital in the coming months for employers and employees to show patience for one another. Offering support of some kind to your employees can help them keep on the right path and deter them from unhealthy coping mechanisms.