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Truckers facing ‘significant challenges and frustration’ finding drug and alcohol testing services, group warns

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) is issuing a warning to federal regulators regarding difficulty that truck drivers are having finding reliable drug and alcohol testing services due to supply and staffing issues.

As the national supply chain crisis has become major hot button topic, OOIDA says that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) drug and alcohol testing policies could be sidelining drivers and preventing them from delivering goods.

In an October 13 letter addressed to FMCSA Deputy Administrator Meera Joshi, OOIDA President and CEO Todd Spencer outlines ways that drug and alcohol testing rules are causing “significant challenges and frustration for truckers.”

Per federal rules, drivers who are notified of a random drug and alcohol test must immediately to a testing facility and they may not leave the testing site without risking a test refusal, even if the facility is not equipped to complete the test.

OOIDA says many members are reporting disruptions at testing facilities due to lack of supplies and staff.

“Increasingly, our association has experienced difficulties finding facilities to schedule and complete necessary tests for our members. Drivers have reported to facilities that lack equipment, like drug testing specimen cups, due to the current broader shortages of plastics. In other instances, facilities don’t have qualified personnel to administer the test. From what we have heard from testing facilities, these disruptions are due to the continuing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Spencer wrote.

OOIDA went on to ask the FMCSA for regulatory relief or guidance for truckers who are experiencing problems getting the required drug and alcohol testing. The group also asked FMCSA to clarify what options are available to truck drivers who report to a facility that is unable to complete the testing.

You can read the letter in full below.

October 13, 2021

Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association

National Headquarters: 1 NW OOIDA Drive, Grain Valley, MO 64029 Tel: (816) 229-5791 Fax: (816) 427-4468

Washington Office:

1100 New Jersey Ave. SE, Washington, DC 20003 Tel: (202) 347-2007 Fax: (202) 347-2008

The Honorable Meera Joshi
Deputy Administrator
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, D.C. 20590

Dear Deputy Administrator Joshi:

We are writing to notify you of disruptions affecting FMCSA’s drug and alcohol testing system that have caused significant challenges and frustration for truckers.

In order to remain compliant with federal drug and alcohol rules, all drivers subject to the requirements of a commercial driver’s license must submit to random testing. When a driver is notified that they will be tested, they must immediately report to a testing site. If a driver encounters issues at the collection site that prevent the facility from completing the test, such as a lack of testing equipment or qualified staff, they cannot simply leave the site. Even if a facility is unable to complete the required test, the driver cannot immediately leave. This is because leaving the site could constitute a refusal, which has the same consequences as a positive test. As a result, a trucker would lose their ability to drive.

When a driver finds that a facility cannot complete a test, they have to remain at the site and communicate with their employer or testing consortium to thoroughly document the situation and attempt to find another facility to conduct the test. These situations create challenges and frustrations for drivers, the testing sites, employers, and the consortiums that facilitate testing.

OOIDA operates a drug and alcohol consortium to help drivers comply with mandatory testing requirements as part of the services that we offer our members. Increasingly, our association has experienced difficulties finding facilities to schedule and complete necessary tests for our members. Drivers have reported to facilities that lack equipment, like drug testing specimen cups, due to the current broader shortages of plastics. In other instances, facilities don’t have qualified personnel to administer the test. From what we have heard from testing facilities, these disruptions are due to the continuing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With these ongoing problems, we ask that FMCSA issue guidance or provide temporary relief so truckers are not stripped of their ability to drive just because of supply chain issues limiting drug and alcohol testing capabilities. FMCSA has already issued relief for other testing challenges caused by the pandemic that allowed the Agency to exercise discretion when enforcing certain requirements for the rates and frequency of drug and alcohol testing.1

FMCSA should also clarify what options are available to drivers when they encounter facilities that cannot complete tests. Furthermore, FMCSA should ensure that all DOT staff responsible for administering the drug and alcohol testing program are aware of these issues and can recognize them when they are reported. At a minimum, FMCSA must alleviate potential confusion that drivers may face by improving communication about these complications.

Thank you,

Todd Spencer
President & CEO
Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, Inc.

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