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Truckers warn federal regulators of drug-testing bottlenecks

OOIDA says lack of testing equipment, qualified personnel threaten to unfairly sideline drivers

A shortage of available drug and alcohol testing clinics, personnel and equipment threaten to unfairly ban truck drivers from the road, according to the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

In a letter sent to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on Wednesday, OOIDA President and CEO Todd Spencer said that disruptions affecting FMCSA’s testing system are causing “significant challenges” for drivers.

To remain compliant with federal drug and alcohol rules, drivers are required to submit to random testing. However, “increasingly, our association has experienced difficulties finding facilities to schedule and complete necessary tests for our members,” Spencer wrote to FMCSA Administrator Meera Joshi.

“Drivers have reported to facilities that lack equipment, like drug testing specimen cups, due to the current broader shortages of plastics. In other instances, facilities don’t have qualified personnel to administer the test. From what we have heard from testing facilities, these disruptions are due to the continuing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Spencer explained that when drivers are notified they will be tested, they must immediately report to a testing site. But if issues at the collection site prevent the facility from completing the test, they cannot simply leave the site, even if a facility is unable to complete the required test. “This is because leaving the site could constitute a refusal, which has the same consequences as a positive test. As a result, a trucker would lose their ability to drive.”

FMCSA has acknowledged the clash between required random drug testing and disruptions caused by the pandemic. Last year the agency issued a discretion determination notice giving carriers some leeway if they were unable to comply with certain testing requirements caused by the COVID-19 emergency.

OOIDA did not immediately respond to comment on the extent to which its members have been stripped of their driving credentials, but it wants FMCSA to issue special guidelines or provide temporary relief to keep the problem from occurring. “FMCSA should also clarify what options are available to drivers when they encounter facilities that cannot complete tests,” Spencer stated.

“Furthermore, FMCSA should ensure that all DOT staff responsible for administering the drug and alcohol testing program are aware of these issues and can recognize them when they are reported. At a minimum, FMCSA must alleviate potential confusion that drivers may face by improving communication about these complications.”

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  1. Ooida ata and fmcsa are all a waste of space in our industry ata and ooida Especially they ran there mouths about elogs and did nothing bill Graves proved himself to me with the elogs also and how does a facility not being able to perform a piss test affect me ? All these agency’s need swept out .

  2. I was wondering if there’s any progress and doing breathalyzers for marijuana opposed to the urine test could you imagine if you did a urine test for alcohol and you had alcohol 6 weeks ago and you have to go to a drug rehab because you had a glass of wine with dinner 6 weeks ago but it’s worse than that for marijuana goes back for months breathalyzers go back 8 hours like it’s should be to see if you’re under the influence or not are they going to change this soon since now marijuana is becoming legal throughout the whole country lot of drivers or can’t drive because they smoke marijuana a month ago heaven forbid but it’s okay if I got drunk the night before and go to work so the most least Dangerous Drug like alcohol heroin cocaine and so forth a gun out of your urine in a couple days marijuana months and months on end just don’t make no sense a lot of good drivers can’t pass a drug test because they smoke marijuana month ago and it was legal like alcohol is legal what’s up with all that I need to do breathalyzers like they do for alcohol like I said can you imagine if you got busted for alcohol and you only had a drink 6 weeks ago or two months ago that’s how it is with marijuana duh

  3. OOIDA is full crap, my company sent me for a drug test and the site they sent me to could not do the test because of equipment failure and my company just sent me to another site for testing, not a complicated matter. Sounds more to me like some driver’s know they will not pass the test and are trying to find time to get clean.

    Stay off the pipe and you will not have that problem.

  4. The Government creates the problems, then let’s everyone else deal with them. This isn’t any different than the CPAP problem.

John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.