Starting Jan 1 2018, 4 Common Opioids Will Be Added to the DOT Random Drug Testing Panel
Written by Lucas Kibby
It is now official. Starting January 1st, 2018, the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) plans to begin testing truck drivers and other “safety-sensitive” transportation employees for the semi-synthetic opioids: hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxymorphone and oxycodone. The drugs are generally taken as pain pills.
The rule also remove methylenedioxyethylamphetamine (MDEA) as a confirmatory test analyte from the existing drug testing panel.
With DOT’s goal to harmonize with the Health and Human Services (HHS) guidelines, we knew this announcement was coming as it was originally expected to coming in October, but what we are shocked about is how soon the implementation is slated to start. We assume the labs are ready for these added drugs in the nearly 6.3 million DOT drug tests administered annually.
According to the announcement, “Inclusion of these four semi-synthetic opioids is intended to help address the nationwide epidemic of opioid abuse. Also, adding these four drugs, which are already tested for in many transportation employers’ non-DOT testing programs because of their widespread use and potentially impairing effect, will allow the DOT to detect a broader range of drugs being used illegally. Transportation industries are not immune to this trend and the safety issues it raises.”
We knew at the beginning of the Trump Presidency that this proposed rule would not be affected the by the 60-day regulatory freeze on all recently published regulations for review because rule is safety related which is exempt from the Administration’s freeze.
“This final rule clarifies certain existing drug-testing program provisions and definitions, makes technical amendments and removes the requirement for employers and consortium/third-party administrators (C/TPAs) to submit blind specimens,” the DOT announcement said.
HHS also estimates that the cost per urine test would be an additional $0.60 and a 3% increase in MRO costs as additional review and verifications would need to be conducted.
What Does This Mean For DOT Regulated Companies?
A driver having a valid MD prescription for a medication that contains any of these opioids and reporting that information at the time of testing will help the MRO in reviewing the results. Having the prescribed amount show positive in the test result will not be considered a positive test. However, if MROs notice an unnatural amount of the drug in a driver’s system, the MRO will likely want to ask more questions and could result in a positive drug test.
With the rise in opioid addiction, be sure to follow your medication instructions from your doctor.
However, the biggest impact this rule could have on DOT regulated companies is that this would increase the percentage of positive tests during Random testing.
As we wait for FMCSA’s announcement on 2018’s random testing rate, the FMCSA currently has a 25% random drug testing rate of truck operators, meaning carriers will be required to randomly test 25% of their drivers in the calendar year.
For the random testing rate to go back up to 50%, by rule there must be one year where there is above 1% positive random testing rates among surveyed companies. The most recent data has shown an increasing trend and currently sits at 0.9% positives during random tests.
If we do not hit this 1% threshold on FMCSA’s latest data to be announced in December, HHS assumes that adding these four common opioids will cause 1% of those tested should come back positive. That’s right, the random rate should easily be above the 1% threshold and potentially stay there for the foreseeable future.