OOIDA to FMCSA: Provide relief for drug testing disruptions

October 14, 2021

Greg Grisolano

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Shortages of materials and labor continue to ripple across the supply chain in unexpected ways, and now a shortage of plastic specimen cups and lab technicians could be preventing commercial drivers from taking required drug screenings.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is asking federal authorities to step in and issue guidance or provide relief for truck drivers who may find themselves facing “significant challenges and frustrations” with the drug and alcohol testing system.

OOIDA operates a drug and alcohol consortium to help drivers comply with mandatory testing requirements. The Association has received reports from members of disruptions at testing facilities due to the continuing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a letter to FMCSA Deputy Administrator Meera Joshi, OOIDA president and CEO Todd Spencer laid out the Association’s concerns.

“Increasingly, our association has experienced difficulties finding facilities to schedule and complete necessary tests for our members,” Spencer wrote. “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.”

In order to remain compliant with federal drug and alcohol rules, all CDL holders must submit to random testing. When a driver is notified 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.

OOIDA’s letter also notes that even if a facility is unable to complete the required test, the driver cannot immediately leave. 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,” the letter states. “These situations create challenges and frustrations for drivers, the testing sites, employers, and the consortiums that facilitate testing.”

The Association’s letter also points out 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.

“FMCSA should also clarify what options are available to drivers when they encounter facilities that cannot complete tests,” Spencer wrote. “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,” the letter stated.

Drivers who want to report being affected by the drug testing disruptions should call OOIDA headquarters at 816-229-5791 and ask to speak to a member of the Association’s compliance team.

Listen to Land Line Now discuss drug testing disruptions

Supply chain shortages have affected many aspects of overall society, and created problems specifically for truckers. Shortages of parts that require computer chips is a good example, affecting everything from diesel particulate filter sensors to CPAPs. Now, drug test facilities join the list. Listen to Land Line Now discuss the issue with Bryce Mongeon of OOIDA’s Washington D.C. office. LL

Drug test facilities run short on supplies, staff

Greg Grisolano joined Land Line in 2013. He was formerly a reporter for the Joplin Globe. He brings business writing and photography skills to Land Line, and has a passion for finding and telling stories about the people who make up the trucking industry.