The Pandemic’s Impact on DOT Random Drug Test Refusals
What happens when you combine recent supply chain disruptions with stringent Clearinghouse reporting requirements? You get a classic “caught between a rock and a hard place” scenario for drivers and their employers.
Here’s what’s going on . . .
How the Pandemic is Affecting Drug-Testing Sites
The pandemic has caused staffing shortages at drug-testing sites and major disruptions in the supply chain, including a lack of specimen cups.
Why does this matter? Well, when drivers are tapped for a random drug test, they must immediately report to a testing site and remain at the testing site until the test is completed. If they leave the testing site before the test is completed, their action could be considered a “refusal”—and the equivalent of a positive test. A positive test means they lose their ability to drive.
Not only that, but refusals are reported to the DOT Clearinghouse and go on the driver’s record. The refusal stays on the driver’s record for five years or until the driver completes a return-to-duty process (whichever date is later). Drivers would also lose their ability to renew their CDLs.
The Implication of DOT Random Drug Test Refusals (Even When it’s Not the Driver’s Fault)
If you’re a driver or you employ drivers, you’re likely already familiar with what we outlined above. The rules probably make sense and sound reasonable—or at least they did in a pre-pandemic world.
But what happens if the drug-testing site doesn’t have the staff or the proper supplies to test the driver—and the driver leaves the testing site as a result? That shouldn’t qualify as a “refusal,” right?
Unfortunately, the current verbiage in the regulation doesn’t account for this situation. The driver cannot leave a testing site simply because the facility doesn’t have staff or equipment. Doing so would constitute a refusal, which would unleash everything we described above.
Instead, the driver would need to remain at the testing site. While at the testing site, the driver would need to contact their employer, carefully document what was happening, and find another testing site to report to ASAP.
As you can imagine, all of this eats up precious time and produces frustration all around, which is precisely why the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) has asked the FMCSA to issue guidance and/or relief to truck drivers facing this quandary.
In the past, the FMCSA has issued emergency guidance about drug testing and COVID-19. But until it provides an update concerning this specific issue, truck drivers and their employers must be aware of the potential pitfalls when it comes to random drug testing right now—and adjust their approach accordingly.
What Should Carriers and Drivers Do?
- Employers should work closely with their drivers to help them find a facility that has the staff and resources to administer the test. We don’t have to remind you about the driver shortage out there. Random drug tests are stressful enough. So it’s essential that employers make this process as seamless as possible or else you risk losing drivers.
- Employers should seriously consider working with a reputable drug & alcohol testing partner to help facilitate the tests. Keep in mind that not every DOT compliance vendor offers this level of service.
Got Other Questions? Foley’s Here for You!
Obviously, the pandemic has forced a variety of industries to manage scenarios that no one had ever dreamed of—and an excellent example is DOT random drug test refusals due to shortages of staff and supplies.
Luckily, Foley can help. With over 12,000 testing sites in our nationwide network, we can assist you in finding a collection site in your driver’s area. Plus, we make Clearinghouse compliance a breeze. Let’s chat about your specific needs.
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