FMCSA Lowers Random Substance Testing Minimum - Should You?

Effective January 1, 2016, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced that it reduced the minimum required percentage for random drug tests from 50% to 25%.

It should be reiterated that the 25% is the minimum required percentage of drivers to be tested. Organizations that have run a successful program when testing 50% of drivers do not need to reduce their testing. Consistency with a drug & alcohol program ensures that a workforce will remain safe and healthy.

The lowering of the minimum testing threshold is a result of a provision within the FMCSA regulations. The regulation stipulates that the FMCSA may lower the minimum random testing threshold to 25% when the positive test percentage for drivers under the FMCSA purview falls below 1% in consecutive years. 2015 marked the third consecutive year in which the rate fell below 1% and the FMCSA responded with a lowering of the random substance abuse testing minimum.

While it is heartening that the rate of positive tests for drivers has stayed below the 1% benchmark, there is other data that employers should consider before reducing their testing rate.

Previously, AllOne Health had covered that there has actually been an increase in positive drug tests among workers in the past few years. To wit, 2014 saw an 11.4% increase in positive drugs tests as compared to 2012. Taking this macro view of workforce drug use brings with it an interesting question: which data set represents the actual trend? Have organizations and drivers been able to skirt a nationwide trend in the American workforce through an increased focus on reducing worker substance abuse?

Taking into account the stress of driving jobs, drivers are at a one of the highest risks for substance abuse. A report in Occupational & Environmental Medicine amalgamated studies on drug usage among truck drivers around the world. A line within the abstract in particular should give all employers pause when considering if they should lower their random testing rate. “The frequency of substance use was lower in studies that investigated the presence of these substances in biological samples than in those based on self-reported use.” Testing found less substance abuse than drivers explicitly confirming their drug use. Following that train of thought, it stands to reason drivers may be adept at bypassing drug tests and thus the number of positive tests among drivers is actually deflated.

Organizations should strongly consider these factors when deciding on their random drug testing rates. Monitor the effects of your company’s random testing protocol and consider partnering with an occupational health expert that can guide you on best practices for keeping your workforce safe and healthy.