DOT’s Driver Drug-Testing Rate to Remain Unchanged in 2015

By Roy Maurer Jan 6, 2015
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The Department of Transportation (DOT) has announced that minimum random testing for controlled substances for employees in safety-sensitive positions, including truck and bus drivers, will remain at 50 percent through 2015. The testing rate for alcohol will remain at 10 percent.

According to the department, the decision to maintain the current rate was based on data from industry drug-test lab results, the DOT’s 2012 drug and alcohol testing survey, and additional investigations.

The collected information demonstrated that:

  • Positive test rates following an initial positive result increased by 4.1 percent from 2011 to 2012.
  • Reasonable-suspicion positive test rates increased sharply from 15.7 percent in 2011 to 37.2 percent in 2012.
  • The rate of total positive drug test results reported to the DOT from independent laboratories increased from 95,427 positives in 2011 to 97,332 positives in 2012. Motor carrier industries make up about 80 percent of the reported tests. “The number of positives reported by independent laboratories fail to reflect positive numbers generated by motor carriers that now include hair testing as part of their company’s pre-employment process,” said Danny Cooner, president of Safety First Drug Testing, a division of Behavioral Health Systems, a provider of employee assistance, mental health and substance abuse programs for employers.
  • Serious drug and alcohol testing violations were identified in 24 percent of recent compliance investigations.
  • A two-week strike force in 2014 resulted in 205 driver enforcement cases, and 138 enforcement cases against carriers for controlled substance violations, including drivers operating passenger carrying vehicles and transporting hazardous materials.

Despite these increases, the 2012 drug and alcohol testing survey indicated that positive results from random tests have decreased. About 2,000 carriers participated in that survey.

“The decrease in random positivity rates could be misleading because it doesn’t include the number of non-negatives being certified as negative by the medical review officer due to legitimate prescription medications,” said Cooner.

The DOT said it will continue to monitor industry testing programs and would review the testing rates again in 2016.

“I think the proposed Commercial Driver’s License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, a database of all controlled substances and alcohol test results for commercial driver’s license holders, is much more likely to decrease positive test results than simply testing more employees,” said Judi Braswell, vice president of business development at Behavioral Health Systems.

Braswell, a qualified Substance Abuse Professional under DOT regulations, supports the department’s decision to keep the drug-testing rate at 50 percent. “Until there is access to accurate and up-to-date information, with employer mandates to utilize the [proposed database], employees testing positive are able to ‘job hop’ to avoid the consequences of testing positive and, unfortunately, their next positive test may be post-accident,” she said.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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