In order to take pressure off of trucking companies as they return to normal operations and start to hire back drivers who have been sidelined during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has extended its waiver for specific pre-employment drug testing requirements until Sept. 30.
In a statement regarding the waiver extension, the FMCSA said, “In response to the COVID-19 public health emergency, many employers have imposed layoffs, furloughs or otherwise temporarily removed employees from performing safety-sensitive functions, resulting in their removal from the random pool for controlled substances and alcohol testing for a period greater than 30 days.”
Back in March, the FMCSA issued “reasonable flexibility” guidance for carriers in the testing of their drivers because the pandemic was causing an undue burden on these firms and drivers. Areas of concern included pre-employment testing, random testing and post-accident testing.
The FMCSA also said, “The administrative and cost burdens of pre-employment testing for furloughed drivers outside the random testing pool for more than 30 days falls on motor carrier employers at the very time they are attempting to return to expanded levels of operation.”
Federal regulators contend that this response is appropriate and will help in the economic recovery of carriers who were most harshly affected when the country shut down because of the pandemic.
The waiver indicates that if a pre-employment test for controlled substances cannot be administered, a potential employee cannot be allowed to drive until a negative test is confirmed unless one of the following exceptions applies:
A driver participated in a controlled substances testing program that meets requirements within the previous 30 days.
A driver was tested for controlled substances within the past six months from the date of their application.
A driver participated in the random controlled substances testing program for the previous 12 months from the date of the application.
Another element of the exception includes when a carrier guarantees that a prospective driver’s past employers have no knowledge of a violation for controlled substances. The waiver also requires carriers to:
Verify that the driver participated in the controlled substances testing and had no recorded violations for controlled substances-use regulations within the previous six months.
Comply with the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse pre-employment query requirement (although some exceptions are being made for the use of Clearinghouse).
Not allow a driver to perform a safety-sensitive function if results of a Clearinghouse query show the driver is prohibited from doing so.
Finish mandatory investigations and inquiries required by federal regulations.
Inform FMCSA within five days of an accident involving a driver operating under the terms of the waiver specifying that the driver was using the waiver.