Could the DOT Random Drug Testing Rate Go Back Up to 50% in 2017?
Written by Lucas Kibby, CleanFleet
UPDATE: As of Dec. 13th, the FMCSA will maintain its current 25 percent random drug testing rate of truck operators in 2017, meaning carriers will be required to randomly test 25 percent of their drivers in the calendar year.
Last year the FMCSA announced that will reduce the minimum annual percentage rate for random drug testing for drivers from 50% to 25% of the average number of driver positions.
In accordance with 49 CFR 382.305(e)(2) if, in the future, the reported positive rate for any calendar year is equal to or greater than 1.0%, the FMCSA will increase the minimum annual percentage rate for random drug testing to 50% of all driver positions.
Could the DOT Random Drug Testing rate go back up in 2017? Possibly.
Why the Random Testing Rate Fell
In order for the FMCSA to lower the random drug testing rate, the rate for positive, FMCSA-regulated random drug test results must fall below 1% for three consecutive years. For 2011, 2012, and 2013, the FMCSA has recorded a positive test result rate of 0.7%.
This data is based upon FMCSA’s most recent survey (2013) of drug-test results from 1,654 different motor carriers. Combined, these carriers employ approximately 497,000 commercial drivers and 0.7% (34,790) tested positive for metabolites from controlled substances. In the 2012 and 2011 surveys, the estimated results were 0.6% and 0.9%, respectively.
For 2014, the FMCSA's most recent survey data available, the estimated positive usage rate for drugs in was 0.9 percent.
CleanFleet Data – Then and Now
However, for CleanFleet, our positive testing (including refusals) rate has increased over the last 3 years and the positive testing rate for 2015 is 1.45%, which is double that of the FMCSA and far above the 1% threshold.
Our positive testing rate in 2013, the year of the FMCSA survey, was 0.96%. Over the next two years, we saw a 51% increase in positive test results! As CleanFleet is based based in Oregon, this increase above the FMCSA’s reported national survey results may reflect the legal recreational and medicinal use of marijuana in Oregon and Washington.
So what about 2016 data? Remember, in 2016, the testing rate was at 25%, not 50% like the previous year(s) data. CleanFleet found that the 2016 DOT positive (including refusals) rate was 1.1%, above the DOT threshold to increase the testing rate back up to 50%.
What can we expect from FMCSA’s data compared to Other Sources?
Based on the way the FMCSA collects their data, we expect to see a slight increase in positive testing rate, but not above the 1% threshold needed to increase the random drug testing rate to 50%. However, assuming the trend continues, we may see the rate increase for 2018.
And the trend is seen across multiple sources. Since CleanFleet services clients across the US, we have reason to believe that our numbers reflect wider trends in the increasing use of controlled substances for commercial driver.
In addition to our stats, a survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) showed an increase in individuals who reported marijuana use over the past month, which rose from 6.2% of Americans over age 12 in 2002 to 8.4% in 2014.
In addition, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that, since medical marijuana was legalized in Colorado in 2009, the percentage of marijuana-positive drivers involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes has increased significantly.
Minimum Testing Rate May Not Protect You In The Court Of Law?
The FMCSA lowering the minimum random drug-testing rate is expected to, “Save the industry millions of dollars in operational expenses.” Rob Abbott, ATA’s vice president of safety policy added, “This announcement is an important step that will immediately reduce regulatory and cost burdens for motor carriers.”
Following the minimum testing standards will protect you from violating FMCSA regulations. However, basic compliance will not protect you in a situation of civil litigation. Lowering your testing rate for the reasons of “burden” and “expense” will not protect you in court of law, and in fact may be used against you if the plaintiff can prove that going beyond the minimum standards would have significantly lowered your risk for accidents, crashes, injuries, and fatalities.
Moreover, minimum documentation standards may not be sufficient to prove that you exercised due diligence in maintaining safe working conditions and screening out potentially dangerous drivers.
Don’t know where to start in deciding what testing rate and testing programs are best for your business. Do you want an evaluation of both your current FMCSA compliance and your general legal liability as it relates to your drug and alcohol testing program? Reach out to CleanFleet and we’ll be happy to help at 503-479-6082!