An in-depth look at the Medical Review Office Process. During this video, you will learn what happens after a drug test is completed at the lab and sent to the MRO.
When a driver has a verified positive drug test or refuses to test, the driver must be removed from a safety-sensitive function immediately per 49 CFR 382.501. No employer shall permit any driver to perform safety-sensitive functions; including driving a commercial motor vehicle, if the driver has engaged in conduct prohibited by Subpart B of this part or any alcohol or controlled substance rule of another DOT agency. The employer must present the driver with a list of Substance Abuse Professionals (SAPs) per 40.287. The list must be provided to the driver (or driver applicant) whether or not the carrier retains the driver in their employment. Retention of the driver would be based on the company policy.
In order to resume a safety-sensitive function, the driver must complete the Return-to-Duty Process of Subpart O of Part 40. The driver cannot perform a safety-sensitive function again until all the necessary steps are completed:
- The driver must seek a face-to-face evaluation from a SAP. (Payment of the evaluation is based on management-labor agreements and healthcare benefits and is not required of the employer under the FMCSRs.)
- The SAP will refer the driver to an appropriate treatment and education program.
- The driver must complete the required treatment and education and return to the SAP for another face-to-face evaluation.
- If the SAP is satisfied that the driver is able to return to driving, he/she will issue a report on his/her findings to the Designated Employer Representative.
- This report will list any continuing treatment and education, if required, and the number of DOT follow-up drug and/or alcohol tests required in a given time frame. The driver will be required to have a minimum of six unannounced follow-up tests in the first 12 months following the employee’s return to a safety-sensitive function. The SAP may require follow-up testing for up to five years.
- The driver now can go, and not prior to this point, for a return-to-duty drug and/or alcohol test. The employer must wait for the go ahead from the SAP before sending the driver in for the return-to-duty test. A negative result must be received before the driver can return to a safety-sensitive function.
After the driver returns to a safety-sensitive function, the employer must send the driver for the required number of unannounced follow-up tests making sure that they do not have any discernible pattern.
All records relating to a DOT-drug and alcohol violation must be retained for five years per 382.401. If the driver leaves the motor carrier’s employment prior to the completion of the very last follow up test, this information must be supplied to the prospective employer per 40.25, and the next employer(s) must pick up where the process left off.
*Please note that follow up and return-to-duty tests are always directly observed.
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“On March 13, 2020, the President declared a national emergency under 42 U.S.C. § 5191(b), related to the effects of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is aware that the motor carrier industry continues to experience operational disruptions caused by the COVID-19 public health emergency. As the Nation engages in a phased re-opening, the pace of return to normal operations will vary across the country. In some regions of the United States, motor carrier employers subject to controlled substance (drug) and alcohol testing under 49 CFR part 382 may be unable to comply with certain testing requirements due to the ongoing impacts of the emergency.
“In recognition of these barriers to full compliance in some locations, the Agency may exercise discretion to determine not to enforce the minimum annual percentage random testing rates for drugs and alcohol, and the requirement that each employer ensure that the dates for administering random drug and alcohol tests are spread reasonably throughout the calendar year, as set forth in 49 CFR 382.305(b)(1) and (2) and 49 CFR 382.305(k), respectively. FMCSA emphasizes, however, that employers capable of meeting these requirements must continue to do so.
“Employers must continue to select drivers at the required rate of 50 percent of their average number of driver positions for controlled substances, and 10 percent for random alcohol testing during the calendar year 2020. If a test is unable to be completed due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, the motor carrier must maintain written documentation of the specific reasons for non-compliance. For example, employers should document closures or restricted use of testing facilities or the unavailability of testing personnel. Additionally, employers should document actions taken to identify alternative testing sites or other testing resources.
“Similarly, employers who are unable to ensure that the dates for administering random controlled substances and alcohol tests are spread reasonably throughout the calendar year should document the specific reasons why they did not meet this requirement. For example, in addition to the lack of available testing facilities or personnel, there may be other factors, such as prolonged or intermittent driver furloughs due to the impacts of COVID-19.
“The Agency issues this Notice to assure employers unable to fully comply with the requirements identified above that we will provide reasonable enforcement flexibility during this unprecedented pandemic, while also meeting FMCSA’s core safety mission. This Notice is not intended, and should not be perceived, as suspending the current random testing requirements.
“This Notice pertains to employers’ noncompliance, during calendar year 2020, with the random testing requirements described above. The Agency may exercise enforcement discretion in connection with motor carrier investigations occurring in calendar year 2021.
- Acknowledges the current and anticipated disruptions to the administration of drug and alcohol testing caused by the COVID-19 public health emergency;
- Considers the interests of public safety and the continuing need to free up medical supplies and facilities for the diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19;
- Requires that employers who are capable of complying with 49 CFR 382.305(b) and 49 CFR 382.305(k) must continue to do so; and
- Creates no individual rights of action and establishes no precedent for future determinations.”
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AGENCY: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), DOT.
ACTION: Grant of waiver.
SUMMARY: FMCSA grants a three-month waiver from certain pre-employment testing requirements applicable to employers of drivers subject to 49 CFR part 382. This action responds to the President’s Executive Order No. 13924, Regulatory Relief to Support Economic Recovery, issued on May 19, 2020, related to the economic consequences of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) public health emergency.
DATES: This waiver is effective June 5, 2020, and ends on September 30, 2020.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. David J. Yessen, Chief of the Compliance Division, Office of Enforcement and Compliance, 202-366-1812, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20590-0001.
The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) (Pub. L. 105-178, 112 Stat. 107, June 9, 1998) provides the Secretary of Transportation (the Secretary) authority to grant waivers from any of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations issued under Chapter 313 of Title 49 of the United States Code or 49 U.S.C. § 31136, to a person(s) seeking regulatory relief (49 U.S.C. §§ 31136(e), 31315(a)). The Secretary must make a determination that the waiver is in the public interest and that it is likely to achieve a level of safety equivalent to, or greater than, the level of safety that would be obtained in the absence of the waiver. Individual waivers may be granted for a specific unique event for a period up to three months. TEA-21 authorizes the Secretary to grant waivers without requesting public comment, and without providing public notice.
The Administrator of FMCSA has been delegated authority under 49 CFR 1.87(e) and (f) to carry out the functions vested in the Secretary by 49 U.S.C. chapter 313, relating to commercial motor vehicle operators, and 49 U.S.C. chapter 311, subchapter I and III, relating to commercial motor vehicle programs and safety regulations.
On May 19, 2020, the President issued Executive Order No. 13924 setting forth “the policy of the United States to combat the economic consequences of COVID-19 with the same vigor and resourcefulness with which the fight against COVID-19 itself has been waged.” Among other things, the Executive Order directed executive branch agencies to “address this economic emergency by … waiving  or providing exemptions from regulations and other requirements that may inhibit economic recovery consistent with applicable law and with protection of the public health and safety ….” This waiver responds to the unique circumstances of certain pre-employment testing requirements arising from the economic emergency identified in the President’s Executive Order, as further described below.
Various measures employed to reduce the spread of COVID-19, including social distancing, and stay-at-home and business closure orders issued by State and local governments, have significantly decreased demand for motor carrier services, particularly from passenger carriers. 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, as defined in 49 CFR 382.107, resulting in their removal from the random pool for controlled substances and alcohol testing for a period greater than 30 days. As employers begin calling these drivers back to work, they will incur the cost of conducting pre-employment controlled substances testing before using these drivers to perform safety-sensitive functions, as required by 49 CFR 382.301. 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. The Agency finds that temporary regulatory relief from this burden will aid in the economic recovery of motor carriers impacted by the COVID-19 public health emergency, without negatively impacting safety. FMCSA also concludes that this waiver will aid in the Nation’s overall economic recovery by enabling the efficient resumption of the transportation of people and cargo throughout the United States.
FMCSA’s Determination and Regulatory Provisions Waived
Consistent with the statutory requirements for waivers, FMCSA has determined that it is in the public interest to issue a waiver, until September 30, 2020, limited in scope and circumstances, that is likely to achieve a level of safety equivalent to, or greater than, the level of safety that would be obtained in the absence of the waiver.
Currently, pursuant to 49 CFR 382.301(a), prior to the first time a driver performs safety-sensitive functions for an employer, the driver must undergo pre-employment testing for controlled substances and the employer must receive a verified negative controlled substances test result for that driver from a medical review officer or a consortium/third party administrator. This requirement also applies each time a driver returns to work after a furlough, lay-off, or other period of unemployment when the driver does not continue to be subject to random controlled substances testing in accordance with 49 CFR 382.305.
Section 382.301(b) provides an exception allowing an employer to forgo administration of a pre-employment test if the driver has participated in a controlled substances testing program that meets the requirements of 49 CFR part 382 within the previous 30 days; and, if while participating in that program, the driver either: (i) was tested for controlled substances within the past 6 months or (ii) participated in the random controlled substances testing program for the previous 12 months. In addition, under the exception, the employer would be required to ensure that no prior employer of the driver has records of a violation of 49 CFR part 382 or the controlled substances use rule of another DOT agency within the previous six months.
As employers begin to recall drivers who were furloughed, laid off, or otherwise not working for the company for more than 30 days, the cost and logistical barriers of testing a large influx of drivers in a short timeframe are significant, at a time when the commercial trucking and motorcoach industry is facing unprecedented economic challenges. This problem is further compounded by the reduced availability of controlled substances testing resources due to continued facility closures or other testing impediments caused by the COVID-19 public health emergency.
This waiver would extend, from 30 days to 90 days, the period under which drivers would qualify for the pre-employment testing exception under 49 CFR 382.301(b). This relief would allow employers to forego pre-employment testing for drivers who have participated in a controlled substances testing program that meets the requirements of 49 CFR part 382 within the previous 90 days of hire or rehire. Allowing employers to forego pre-employment testing for drivers who were in a testing program within the previous 90 days will provide relief from the administrative burdens and costs associated with administering tests and allow them to return drivers to the workforce in a more efficient manner, thus promoting job creation and economic growth.
FMCSA finds that the granting of this waiver is in the public interest because it will facilitate the efficient return of furloughed commercial motor vehicle drivers to the workforce, allowing them to resume critical transportation functions performed by passenger and property motor carriers. In addition, this waiver will reduce the regulatory burden on employers and furloughed drivers subject to the pre-employment testing requirement.
Due to the limited scope of this waiver and the ample precautions that remain in place, FMCSA has determined that the waiver is likely to achieve a level of safety that is equivalent to the level of safety that would be obtained absent the waiver. The waiver of a particular regulation should not be looked at in isolation but rather as part of the whole of all regulations governing the safety of drivers. Waiver determinations are made holistically, taking all relevant factors into account. See International Bhd of Teamsters v. DOT, 724 F.3d 206 (D.C. Cir. 2013). For example, in these circumstances, it is important to note that this waiver does not alter any of the remaining controlled substances and alcohol use and testing requirements for a driver performing safety-sensitive functions, and that motor carrier employers subject to the waiver have access, in real time, to driver-specific drug and alcohol violation information through the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse (Clearinghouse).
Section 382.301(b) sets forth the following conditions a driver must meet to be excepted from pre-employment testing:
(1) The driver has participated in a controlled substances testing program that meets the requirements of this part within the previous 30 days; and
(2) While participating in that program, either:
(i) Was tested for controlled substances within the past 6 months (from the date of application with the employer), or
(ii) Participated in the random controlled substances testing program for the previous 12 months (from the date of application with the employer); and
(3) The employer ensures that no prior employer of the driver of whom the employer has knowledge has records of a violation of [part 382] or the controlled substances use rule of another DOT agency within the previous six months.
FMCSA finds that extending the period for which drivers would qualify for the pre-employment testing exception under 49 CFR 382.301(b)(1), from 30 to 90 days, will not negatively impact safety. The existing requirement that an employer relying on the § 382.301(b) exception must verify that the driver participated in the controlled substances testing specified in § 382.301(b)(2)(i) and (ii) and had no recorded violations of another DOT agency’s controlled substances use regulations within the previous 6 months remains in effect. Moreover, employers must conduct a pre-employment query of the Clearinghouse for returning drivers, as required by § 382.701(a). The Clearinghouse, which became operational on January 6, 2020, enables employers to identify drivers, including furloughed drivers, who have committed an FMCSA controlled substances and alcohol testing program violation that renders them ineligible to perform safety-sensitive functions. Such drivers are prohibited from performing safety-sensitive functions until completing the return-to-duty process, as set forth in 49 CFR part 40, subpart O. The Clearinghouse provides employers with a useful new tool for identifying drivers’ drug and alcohol program violations that did not exist at the time the Agency enacted the 30-day limit for the exception in § 382.301(b). Further, employers must continue to complete a background investigation on returning or prospective drivers’ controlled substances and alcohol testing history with all DOT-regulated employers that employed the driver within the previous 3 years, in accordance with 49 CFR §§ 40.25, 382.413, and 391.23.
FMCSA believes that the current regulatory framework, as well as the additional measures listed below under Terms, Conditions, and Restrictions of the Waiver, taken collectively, provide the assurance needed to meet the legal standard that granting the waiver is likely to achieve an “equivalent level of safety.” Therefore, FMCSA has determined that extending from 30 to 90 days the period for which drivers would qualify for the pre-employment testing exception under 49 CFR 382.301(b) during the period of the waiver is likely to achieve a level of safety that is equivalent to, or greater than, the level of safety that would be obtained in the absence of the waiver.
The COVID-19 public health emergency has led to unprecedented impacts to the Nation’s economy. Various measures employed to reduce the spread of COVID-19, including social distancing, and stay-at-home and business closure orders issued by State and local governments, have significantly decreased demand for motor carrier services, particularly from passenger carriers. 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. FMCSA finds that the circumstances surrounding this waiver are unique due to the urgent need to remove regulatory barriers to allow the efficient resumption of motor carrier operations.
For the reasons noted, FMCSA grants a three-month waiver as provided above, subject to the terms, conditions, and restrictions below.
Terms, Conditions, and Restrictions of the Waiver
This waiver covers employers of drivers subject to the requirements of 49 CFR part 382 for the period beginning at 12:01 a.m. (ET) on June 5, 2020, and continuing through 11:59 p.m. on September 30, 2020.
(1) Employers must verify that the driver participated in the controlled substances testing specified in § 382.301(b)(2)(i) and (ii) and had no recorded violations of another DOT agency’s controlled substances use regulations within the previous 6 months;
(2) Employers must comply with the Clearinghouse pre-employment query requirement set forth in 49 CFR 382.701(a);
(3) Employers must not allow a driver to perform any safety-sensitive function if the results of a Clearinghouse pre-employment query demonstrate that the driver is prohibited from doing so, in accordance with 49 CFR 382.701(d);
(4) Employers must complete the investigations and inquiries required by 49 CFR §§ 40.25, 382.413, and 391.23;
(5) Accident Notification. Each employer must notify FMCSA within 5 business days of an accident (as defined in 49 CFR 390.5), involving any driver operating under the terms of this waiver. See 49 CFR 390.15(b) (requiring maintenance of accident registry). Notification shall be by email to MCPSD@DOT.GOV. The notification must specify that the driver was operating under the terms of this waiver and must include the following information:
i. Date of the accident;
ii. City or town, and State in which the accident occurred, or closest to the accident scene;
iii. Driver’s name and license number;
iv. Vehicle number and State license number;
v. Number of individuals suffering physical injury;
vi. Number of fatalities;
vii. The police-reported cause of the accident (if available at time of the report); and
viii. Whether the driver was cited for violation of any traffic laws, or motor carrier safety regulations; and
(6) FMCSA reserves the right to revoke this waiver due to drivers’ involvement in accidents or employers’ failure to comply with the terms of this waiver.
DOT Guidance on Compliance with Drug and Alcohol Testing Regulations
This guidance document provides clarity to DOT-regulated employers, employees, and service agents on conducting DOT drug-and-alcohol testing given concerns about the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). We, as a Nation, are facing an unprecedented public health emergency that is straining medical resources and altering aspects of American life, including the workplace. The Nation’s transportation industries, which are not immune to the impacts and disruptions resulting from the spread of COVID-19 in the United States, are playing a vital role in mitigating the effects of COVID-19.
DOT is committed to maintaining public safety while providing maximum flexibility to allow transportation industries to conduct their operations safely and efficiently during this period of national emergency.
The below guidance on compliance with the DOT and modal drug and alcohol testing programs apply during this period of national emergency.
For DOT-Regulated Employers:
- As a DOT-regulated employer, you must comply with applicable DOT training and testing requirements. However, DOT recognizes that compliance may not be possible in certain areas due to the unavailability of program resources, such as collection sites, Breath Alcohol Technicians (BAT), Medical Review Officers (MRO) and Substance Abuse Professionals (SAP). You should make a reasonable effort to locate the necessary resources. As a best practice at this time, employers should consider mobile collection services for required testing if the fixed-site collection facilities are not available.
- If you are unable to conduct DOT drug or alcohol training or testing due to COVID-19-related supply shortages, facility closures, State or locally imposed quarantine requirements, or other impediments, you are to continue to comply with existing applicable DOT Agency requirements to document why a test was not completed. If training or testing can be conducted later (e.g., supervisor reasonable suspicion training at the next available opportunity, random testing later in the selection period, follow-up testing later in the month), you are to do so in accordance with applicable modal regulations. Links to the modal regulations and their respective web pages can be found at https://www.transportation.gov/odapc/agencies
- If employers are unable to conduct DOT drug and alcohol testing due to the unavailability of testing resources, the underlying modal regulations continue to apply. For example, without a “negative” pre-employment drug test result, an employer may not permit a prospective or current employee to perform any DOT safety-sensitive functions, or in the case of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), you cannot hire the individual (See 14 CFR § 120.109(1) and (2)).
- Additionally, DOT is aware that some employees have expressed concern about potential public health risks associated with the collection and testing process in the current environment. Employers should review the applicable DOT Agency requirements for testing to determine whether flexibilities allow for collection and testing at a later date.
- As a reminder, it is the employer’s responsibility to evaluate the circumstances of the employee’s refusal to test and determine whether or not the employee’s actions should be considered a refusal as per 49 CFR § 40.355(i). However, as the COVID-19 outbreak poses a novel public health risk, DOT asks employers to be sensitive to employees who indicate they are not comfortable or are afraid to go to clinics or collection sites. DOT asks employers to verify with the clinic or collection site that it has taken the necessary precautions to minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
- Employers should revisit back-up plans to ensure the plans are current and effective for the current outbreak conditions. For example, these plans should include availability of collectors and collection sites and BAT, and alternate/back-up MRO, as these may have changed as a result of the national emergency. Employers should also have regular communications with service agents regarding the service agent’s availability and capability to support your DOT drug and alcohol testing program.
For DOT-Regulated Employees:
- If you are experiencing COVID-19-related symptoms, you should contact your medical provider and, if necessary, let your employer know about your availability to perform work.
- If you have COVID-19-related concerns about testing, you should discuss them with your employer.
- As a reminder, it is the employer’s responsibility to evaluate the circumstances of the employee’s refusal to test and determine whether or not the employee’s actions should be considered a refusal as per 49 CFR § 40.355(i).
For Service Agents:
- As a collector, BAT, laboratory, MRO, or SAP, you should continue to provide services to DOT-regulated employers if it is possible to do so in accordance with State or local mandates related to COVID-19. Should you have concerns about COVID-19 when testing or interacting with employees, please follow your company policy, directions from State and local officials, and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
You are encouraged to continue to monitor guidance from public health officials and to refer to official government channels for additional information related to COVID-19. The CDC provides helpful guidance and insight from medical professionals who closely monitor the virus. The CDC latest updates (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html). Also for reference, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has released guidance on preparing workplaces for COVID-19 (https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf)
This guidance document does not have the force and effect of law and is not meant to bind the public in anyway. This guidance is intended only to provide clarity regarding existing requirements under the law.
How to conduct testing is found in 49 CFR Part 40 (see https://www.transportation.gov/odapc/part40 ), while who gets tested and when (along with drug and alcohol-related training requirements) can be found in the applicable DOT modal regulations (see https://www.transportation.gov/odapc/agencies).
As a reminder, point-of-collection testing or instant tests are not authorized in DOT drug testing (see https://www.transportation.gov/odapc/part40/40-210)
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What is a refusal to take a DOT drug test, and what are the consequences? The DOT regulations speak to refusals in subpart I – Problems in Drug Testing. The three rules that are commonly cited are 40.191, 40.193, and 40.195. A refusal to test is much broader than the employee telling their employer that they will not have the test completed.
(a) As an employee, you have refused to take a drug test if you:
(1) Fail to appear for any test (except a pre-employment test) within a reasonable time, as determined by the employer, consistent with applicable DOT agency regulations, after being directed to do so by the employer. This includes the failure of an employee (including an owner-operator) to appear for a test when called by a C/TPA (see §40.61(a));
(2) Fail to remain at the testing site until the testing process is complete; Provided, That an employee who leaves the testing site before the testing process commences (see §40.63 (c)) for a pre-employment test is not deemed to have refused to test;
(3) Fail to provide a urine specimen for any drug test required by this part or DOT agency regulations; Provided, That an employee who does not provide a urine specimen because he or she has left the testing site before the testing process commences (see §40.63 (c)) for a pre-employment test is not deemed to have refused to test;
(5) Fail to provide a sufficient amount of urine when directed, and it has been determined, through a required medical evaluation, that there was no adequate medical explanation for the failure (see §40.193(d)(2));
(6) Fail or decline to take an additional drug test the employer or collector has directed you to take (see, for instance, §40.197(b));
(7) Fail to undergo a medical examination or evaluation, as directed by the MRO as part of the verification process, or as directed by the DER under §40.193(d). In the case of a pre-employment drug test, the employee is deemed to have refused to test on this basis only if the pre-employment test is conducted following a contingent offer of employment. If there was no contingent offer of employment, the MRO will cancel the test; or
(8) Fail to cooperate with any part of the testing process (e.g., refuse to empty pockets when directed by the collector, behave in a confrontational way that disrupts the collection process, fail to wash hands after being directed to do so by the collector).
(9) For an observed collection, fail to follow the observer’s instructions to raise your clothing above the waist, lower clothing and underpants, and to turn around to permit the observer to determine if you have any type of prosthetic or other device that could be used to interfere with the collection process.
(10) Possess or wear a prosthetic or other device that could be used to interfere with the collection process.
(11) Admit to the collector or MRO that you adulterated or substituted the specimen.
If the employee is concerned about COVID-19 and refuses to go into the clinic to have the collection completed, it is deemed a refusal to test. If the test is considered a refusal, you must consider it as a violation. As a result, the refusal must get reported to the clearinghouse. For information on how to handle this violation, please read our other article here.
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