In January, the FMCSA kicked off the new Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse with required registration for all employers who fall under FMCSA regulation. Registration for drivers is recommended as well—it’s not mandatory, but it will be difficult for drivers to work without registration. At the same time, the FMCSA doubled the required random drug testing rate which went into effect Jan. 1, 2020. The random alcohol testing rate has remained the same at a 10% minimum. It is possible to comply with the new FMCSA random rate, even if you begin today.
- Understand the random rates. The random rates are annual minimum requirements. For example, if a DOT Agency requires a drug testing rate of 50% and an alcohol testing rate of 10%, then an employer with 100 safety-sensitive employees would have to ensure that 50 or more random drug tests and 10 or more random alcohol tests were conducted during the calendar year.
- Update your policy. This first step is the one from which all the others flow. Your random drug testing program and driver educational materials should be specific and include the current testing rates. Update all content to reflect the current regulations. You could also include an addendum with updated information for all rather than issuing all new educational materials to all concerned.
- Evaluate your testing cycle. In order to accommodate the increased random rate, many organizations are re-evaluating their testing cycle. Some are choosing to perform tests more regularly while other are maintaining the minimum quarterly testing. Both have advantages and disadvantages—choose the option that best suits your business operations. Additionally, update your pool before each testing cycle, regardless of frequency. Just prior to performing a random selection, refresh the pool to include all safety-sensitive employees subject to DOT random testing, and exclude those not subject to DOT random testing.
- Compensate for the new random rate. If you missed the Jan. 1 increase, you would have to test an even higher rate throughout the year. Meet with your C/TPA to discuss how you can meet the requirements, whenever you choose to begin. If you think you might not meet your annual testing rate requirement, increase your testing. But, in an effective random program, testing must be spread equally throughout the year.
- Be prepared for unavailable employees. Employees who are unavailable for a drug test is a part of the process, regardless of how carefully you prepare. Follow these tips from ODAPC to correctly process the absence.
- If an employee selected for testing is known to be unavailable during the selection cycle (legitimate extended absence, long-term illness, etc.), document the reason and make-up the rate shortfall by making another selection, or make an extra selection during the next selection cycle. ·
- An employee is selected for testing but has not received notice since it is his day off, test the employee during his or her next shift within the same selection cycle.
- No employee should be excused from testing because of operational difficulties. See your industry specific regulations and interpretations for legitimate exceptions.
- Once the employee is notified to report for testing and the test does not occur, the opportunity for the random testing is over. There is no second “bite of the apple.”
Begin today to improve your testing. Best practices for random drug testing policies also include the location of the test, the design of the testing pool, and the frequency of testing. This is an excellent opportunity to update your manual to match current best practices.