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FMCSA Increases Random Drug Test Rate to 50% for 2020

oral swab

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is increasing the minimum annual percentage rate for random controlled substances testing for truck drivers.

According to a document published in the Federal Register on Dec. 27, the agency is increasing the minimum annual percentage rate for random drug testing from 25% of the average number of driver positions to 50% of the average number of driver positions. This change will take effect Jan. 1, 2020.

For reference, FMCSA estimates there are 3.2 million commercial driver license holders participating in interstate commerce and 1 million CDL holders participating in intrastate commerce. Under the annual random testing rate of 25% of all driving positions, this meant at least 1.05 million random controlled substances tests were to be conducted. With a new annual random testing rate of 50%, approximately 2.1 million random tests will need to be conducted in 2020.

“This change reflects the increased positive test rate and will result in an estimated $50 million to $70 million increase in costs to the industry by requiring that more drivers be tested,” the Federal Register document states.

The minimum annual percentage rate for random alcohol testing will remain at 10%.

The document explains that the FMCSA administrator must increase the minimum annual random testing percentage rate when the data received under the requirements for any calendar year indicates that the reported positive rate is equal to or greater than 1%. FMCSA’s 2018 Drug and Alcohol Testing Survey revealed that the positive rate for controlled substances random testing increased to 1%.

Each calendar year, FMCSA requires motor carriers selected for the survey to submit the results of their drug and alcohol testing programs. As part of the survey, the carriers must provide information on the number of random tests conducted and the corresponding positive rates to the agency in an accurate and timely manner.

In the 2018 survey, forms were sent to 4,480 randomly selected motor carriers. Some 1,908 of those forms were completed and returned to FMCSA. Those forms resulted in usable data from 1,552 carriers, representing 300,635 CDL-holding operators. (Nonusable data means the carriers were out of business, exempt, have no testing program or belong to consortia that did not test any drivers for the carrier during 2018.)

The 2018 survey’s estimated positive random controlled substance test rate of 1% was slightly higher than rates of previous years. The estimated positive usage rate for drugs was 0.8% in 2017 and 0.7% in 2016.

The 95% confidence interval for the 2018 estimate ranges from 0.9% to 1.1%.

“In other words, if the survey were to be replicated, it would be expected that the confidence interval derived from each replication would contain the true usage rate in 95 out of 100 surveys,” the document states.

Based on the 2018 survey results, about 94% of the subject motor carriers had random controlled substance and alcohol testing programs in place. The survey also revealed that 99% of CDL drivers participated in such programs.

FMCSA’s final rule titled “Controlled Substances and Alcohol Use and Testing,” published in 2001, set up the process by which the agency determines whether the minimum annual percentage rate for random testing should be increased or decreased. The final rule stipulated that the decision to increase or decrease the percentage rate would be based on the trucking industry’s overall positive random controlled substance test rate, as reported by motor carrier employers to FMCSA.

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