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FMCSA to Double Drug Test Rate for Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers in 2020

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Sara Goodman

General Manager

On Dec. 27, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced that the minimum annual percentage rate for random drug testing for commercial motor vehicle drivers will be doubled this year. The current testing rate of 25% of the average number of driver positions will therefore be increased to 50%.

This increase comes as a result of data from 2018, in which the FMCSA’s Drug and Alcohol Testing Survey showed that positive results for controlled substances had increased to 1%. The administration is required to increase testing when data from a calendar year shows a positive test rate of 1% or more.

The 50% rate was previously used by the FMCSA until 2016. At the start of that year, after drivers showed a positive test rate of less than 1% in three consecutive years, that number was reduced to 25%. That trend continued in the years that followed, with the 2016 positive test rate estimated at approximately 0.7% while 2017 results showed only a slight increase to 0.8%. However, with the rise in positive results shown in the 2018 data, the administration is returning to the previous rate.

It is estimated that there are approximately 3.2 million commercial driver’s license holders currently operating within interstate commerce and another 1 million who work in intrastate commerce. With the new testing rate of 50%, that means that approximately 2.1 million random tests for controlled substances will be administered in 2020 as opposed to approximately 1.05 million last year.

What Carriers Should Plan For

Each year, the FMCSA randomly selects motor carriers to submit their test results. It is the responsibility of selected carriers to ensure the completeness, accuracy and timeliness of the data.

With over 1 million additional tests for controlled substances needing to be conducted, the FMCSA has advised carriers that they should be prepared to budget both expenses and time related to the increase. It is estimated that the higher test rate will result in increased costs totaling between $50 million and $70 million for the trucking industry. Carriers should not only be prepared for the increased administrative costs, but also to take twice as much time to notify drivers and conduct testing-related labor.

The new testing rate officially went into effect Jan. 1. Meanwhile, the minimum annual percentage rate for random alcohol testing for 2020 will remain unchanged at 10%.

For more information and to see the administration’s Federal Register notice, click here.