Trucking executives were hoping FMCSA would lower the mandatory drug-test rate to 25%, because the rate of positive results from random tests was below 1% for the two most recent years from which data are available: 0.6% in 2012 and 0.9% in 2011.
Although FMCSA did not return calls seeking comment by press time, American Trucking Associations expressed extreme displeasure with the decision.
“FMCSA was looking for a reason to say no,” said Dave Osiecki, ATA’s chief of national advocacy, “We’ve met the conditions for the incentive, and now FMCSA comes out with this nonsense.”
FMCSA’s 2012 survey is based on drug-test results from 1,909 motor carriers with almost 475,100 commercial drivers. The agency also reviewed alcohol tests from 1,458 carriers with about 137,050 drivers.
Federal safety agencies for the railroad, airline, marine and passenger transit modes have all sliced their testing requirements in half, to 25% from 50%, once random drug-test results fell below the 1% threshold for consecutive years.
“FMCSA’s Administrator has the discretion to decrease the testing rate based on data in the survey results, and consideration of other factors — including the number of post-crash positives, reasonable suspicion, follow-up tests and findings from testing program investigations, said FMCSA’s Marissa Padilla.
“In fact, FTA and FRA did not reduce their rate after 2 years under the 1% threshold. Both decreased their rate following a third year of results,” she added.
“Results of the 2013 Drug and Alcohol Survey [have] not yet [been] completed,” Padilla said.
Federal regulations say the FMCSA administrator may reduce the rate, not that he or she must do so. The agency statement listed five other factors from the survey it found to be compelling as a reason to maintain the rates, including:
• A two-week “strike force” last year aimed at drivers with previous positive tests led to 205 cases against drivers and 138 cases against carriers.
• “Reasonable suspicion” positives for drugs rose to 37.2% in 2012 from 15.7% in 2011 and 5.6% in 2010.
• Positive results for follow-up drug tests for those with previous positive results rose to 4.1% in 2012 from 3.1% the year before.
Osiecki said the agency is entitled to look at a variety of statistics, including those that are not random, and conduct strike forces, but the decision on the mandatory rate of testing should be based on the random survey. That has been the case with the other four transportation modes, and he wants it to apply to trucking as well.
“We’re the last mode not to have it,” he said.
FMCSA said it uses five major types of nonrandom tests: pre-employment, post-accident, return to duty, follow-ups to previous positives and “reasonable suspicion” tests where a person appears to be drunk or using drugs.
“Reasonable suspicion positives should really be close to 100%,” Osiecki said.
Analysis from the industry’s 2013 drug tests will play a role in setting the next test rate.
Osiecki said he hopes the industry will maintain its performance below 1% and that three straight years of doing so will persuade FMCSA officials to change to a 25% rate.
The 2012 analysis was released about a year late, and Osiecki said it would be helpful to the industry if the 2013 results are less tardy than that.
The cost of urinalysis for drug tests at a lab can add up over time. Refrigerated carrier C.R. England Inc. has said its bill for 2013 was $152,000. England ranks No. 20 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest for-hire carriers in the United States and Canada.
If the company had to test only one in four drivers, rather than every other, the cost would be chopped in half, saving $76,000 a year.
Cargo Transporters Inc., a Claremont, North Carolina, truckload carrier, tests not just safety-sensitive drivers and technicians, but all of its employees, said Shelley Mundy, director of recruiting and retention.
“Everyone here can be tested. I have been,” said Mundy, who is also chairwoman of the Recruitment & Retention Human Resources Committee of the Truckload Carriers Association.
She said safety concerns are profoundly important for Cargo Transporters, that every driver gets 10 hours of training each year and the company shoots for a test rate above the 50% mandate for drug abuse and 10% for alcohol.
“Even if it’s inconvenient, we have to keep the roadways safe,” Mundy said.
FMCSA also said the random test rate for alcohol abuse also remains at last year’s level, 10%. The 2012 rate for positive alcohol tests was 0.03%, down from 0.1% in 2011. In 2010, it was a flat zero, but that survey result was described as having “extremely low precision.”
Source: Transport Topics