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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