FMCSA update to drug and alcohol testing guidance

March 25, 2020

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The FMCSA has released updated guidance for motor carriers conducting drug and alcohol testing during the current coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. Because of the disruptions this pandemic has caused, these guidelines are to ensure everyone’s safety, while providing reasonable flexibility for motor carriers operating under these challenging circumstances.

This updated guidance is in effect until May 30, 2020, unless the national emergency is extended beyond that date.

Below is a summary. Download the PDF of the guidance in full. If you have questions or need help navigating these guidelines, reach out to our team of safety and compliance experts.

Summary of the FMCSA’s guidance

Random testing

You are required by 49 CFR 382.305(k) to ensure that the dates for administering random alcohol and controlled substances tests are spread reasonably throughout the calendar year. DOT guidance further recommends that you perform random selections and tests at least quarterly.

If, due to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 national emergency, you’re unable to perform random selections and tests sufficient to meet the random testing rate for a given testing period, make up the tests by the end of the year.

Document in writing:

  • the specific reasons why you were unable to conduct tests on drivers randomly selected
  • any actions taken to locate an alternative collection site or other testing resources

Click here for further guidance.

Pre-employment testing

If you are unable to conduct a pre-employment-controlled substances test, in accordance with 49 CFR 382.301(a), you cannot allow a prospective employee to perform DOT safety sensitive functions until you receive a negative pre-employment test result, unless the exception in 49 CFR 382.301(b) applies.

Post-accident testing

You’re required to test each driver for alcohol and controlled substances as soon as practicable following an accident as required by 49 CFR 382.303. However, if due to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 national emergency, you’re unable to administer an alcohol test within 8 hours following the accident, or a controlled substance test within 32 hours following the accident, document in writing the specific reasons why the test could not be conducted, as currently required.

Click here for further guidance.

Reasonable suspicion testing

Document in writing the specific reasons why the test could not be conducted as required. Include any efforts you made to mitigate the effect of the disruption, such as trying to locate an alternative collection site. This documentation should be provided in addition to the documentation of the observations leading to a test, as required by 49 CFR 382.307(f).

Follow current regulations addressing situations in which reasonable suspicion testing is not conducted, set forth in 49 CFR 382.307(e)(1), (2).

Return-to-duty (RTD) testing

In accordance with 49 CFR 40.305(a), do not allow the driver to perform any safety-sensitive functions (as defined in 49 CFR 382.107) until the RTD test is conducted and there is a negative result.

Follow-up testing

If testing cannot be completed, document in writing the specific reasons why the testing could not be conducted as in accordance with the follow-up testing plan. Include any efforts you made to mitigate the effect of the disruption, such as trying to locate an alternative collection site. Conduct the test as soon as practicable.

FMCSA-regulated employees

Follow the ODAPC guidance.
  • If you’re experiencing COVID-19-related symptoms, contact your medical provider. If necessary, let your employer know about your availability to work.
  • If you have COVID-19-related concerns about testing, discuss them with your employer. FMCSA joins ODAPC in suggesting that employers respond to employee concerns in a sensitive and respectful way.

As a reminder, it is the employer’s responsibility to evaluate the circumstances of what may be considered an employee’s refusal to test, and determine whether or not the employee’s actions should be considered a refusal as per 49 CFR § 40.355(i).

Download the PDF to read the FMCSA's guidance in full. If you have questions about navigating these updates, consult your own legal, or contact our dedicated Safety and Compliance team.

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