Drug testing leeway for furloughed truck drivers

Heather Ness

We’re still dealing with the pandemic, and we’ve seen over the past several months the devastating effects the coronavirus has had on Canada and U.S.-based trucking companies. Some of you had no choice but to furlough drivers, or even let them go, to stay afloat.

However, depending on where you are, the pandemic has started to ease. This means in the coming weeks you may be planning to bring drivers back into your workforce. You’ll likely have a host of duties to think about when that day comes.

One of those duties needs to be near the top of your list: handling the drug testing procedures for your drivers operating into the United States. You’ll want to ensure you do this right and abide by the requirements, and fortunately there’s currently some leeway due to the coronavirus pandemic.

drug testing sign
(Photo: iStock)

FMCSA testing requirements

When you bring a driver back from furlough, the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) considers these drivers to be re-hired drivers. Under the current FMCSA regulations in 49 CFR Section 382.301(b), employers may skip the pre-employment drug test if the driver meets the following criteria:

  • Enrolled in a compliant Part 382 program in the past 30 days;
  • Was tested for drugs within the past 6 months or in a random pool for the previous 12 months; and
  • Does not have a U.S. DOT drug testing violation within the previous 6 months.

Carriers must have documentation of a driver’s participation in their program or another carriers’ U.S. program to show he or she qualifies for the exception.

Handling furloughed or rehired drivers

The FMCSA has recently issued a new drug-testing waiver to assist motor carriers with bringing back their furloughed drivers.

From June 5 through Sept. 30, the waiver allows motor carriers to re-employ drivers without performing a pre-employment drug test, provided certain criteria are met and documented.

The waiver extends the period under which drivers qualify for the pre-employment testing exception under 49 CFR Section 382.301(b) from 30 days to 90 days.

If a driver is removed from the company’s random testing program for more than 30 days (now extended to 90 days), the driver must undergo a pre-employment drug test. Testing is not required for drivers who remained in the random testing pool during an absence.

FMCSA’s waiver was put in place to help carriers deal with the costs and logistical barriers of testing several drivers in a short timeframe.

Waiver terms and details

To take advantage of the waiver, an employer must:

  • Verify that the driver:

o Participated in a Part 382 drug testing program within the prior 90 days;

o While in that testing program, was either tested for drugs within the last 6 months (prior to the new date of application) or participated in the random drug testing program for the previous 12 months;

o Had no recorded U.S. DOT drug test violations within the previous 6 months;

  • Purchase a pre-employment query from the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse (49 CFR Section 382.701(a));
  • Prohibit a driver to perform safety-sensitive functions if the results of the Clearinghouse pre-employment query show the driver is prohibited from doing so;
  • Investigate the driver’s U.S. DOT drug and alcohol testing history with current and previous employers, per 49 CFR Sections 40.25, 382.413, and 391.23; and
  • Email the FMCSA within five business days of any recordable accident (defined in 49 CFR Section 390.5) involving any driver operating under the waiver.

Be sure to review the documentation requirements in 49 CFR Section 382.301(c) when using the pre-employment testing exception.

What about the Clearinghouse?

Like many of the coronavirus-related waivers, extensions, and guidance issued so far, we need to consider each separately. An extension or guidance for one rule doesn’t automatically extend to another.

The FMCSA waiver on pre-employment testing detailed here does not apply to pre-employment queries under the CDL Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse.

For instance, motor carriers can perform road tests before receiving the results of FMCSA-required pre-employment drug screens. However, carriers need to have the results of a pre-employment queries prior to performing road tests.

Another example involves your re-hired drivers. For pre-employment queries, there is no similar 30-day allowance (now 90-days) as provided in 49 CFR Section 382.301(b). If a driver remained in the testing pool and was still considered to be employed, then a pre-employment query is not needed. However, if he or she was removed from the pool and could search for another job, a query would be needed regardless of the time frame.

For more details FMCSA’s entire waiver regarding pre-employment drug testing can be found here.

Heather Ness

Heather Ness is the editor of transport operations at J.J.Keller and Associates. Contact her at transporteditors@jjkeller.com.

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  • Hello I had a phone call from dot telling me I have to have a drug test or lose my cdl .I haven’t drove a truck in 8 months and can’t afford it anyways. I been looking online and can’t find anything on this. Any info would be great. Or getting the word out there. Thank you. Frank nickell 7606861492