The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has been ordered by the president to help fight the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. When trucker jobs declined at the peak of the pandemic, some testing facilities who had truckers as their primary customers went out of business, making the hiring and keeping of drivers harder. The FMCSA wants to break this cycle of fewer truckers on the road due to a lack of drug testing sites by providing a special exemption.
If you want to read the declaration in full, the FMCSA has their notice posted on their website. In short, this exemption is supposed to be just that, not a replacement or even suspension for regulations. If testing facilities are readily accessible, fleets are still obligated to submit a random 50% of drivers for controlled substance testing and 10% of random drivers for alcohol testing throughout the year.
If the employer is unable to obtain this testing, they must keep written documentation throughout the year of their reasons for being unable to test. They must also track the actions attempted to secure drug testing throughout 2020.
This exemption is intended to be a method of last resort for fleets and companies: it is not allowed if a company can reasonably do testing, and if they cannot do testing, it is more methodical than performing testing. This selective enforcement of drug testing regulations ends at the beginning of 2021. In short, as exciting as the idea of having drug tests suspended may be, the FMCSA has made sure to make the exemption as unfun as possible.
The hours-of-service suspension that had already been extended many times before is set to expire July 14th. With only one week left before it expires, it is anyone’s guess as to whether or not it will be extended into August. If it is not, that would be a strong indicator that the FMCSA believes the pandemic is coming to an end.