Every year, federal regulations require agencies that regulate transportation safety to publish standards for a minimum rate of random drug testing. These rates often provide guidance for other programs that rely on random drug testing standards to ensure program integrity.
Note: Testing rates are established by each DOT agency as minimum requirements; companies may set higher random rates.
Random testing rates establish a minimum number of random tests per 100 employees per year. For example, a 50 percent testing rate means for every 100 employees, 50 tests are conducted per year. Random testing means that for each test, any person in the pool of candidates could be selected to test; some persons could be selected more than once and some not at all.
In 2016, FMCSA lowered its random drug testing rates to 25 percent from 50 percent following a federal Management Information Survey that showed the positive test rate for 2011 – 2013 was less than 1 percent. Federal regulations require the agency to raise the random testing rate to 50 percent whenever positive rate exceeds 1 percent for a calendar year.
In July, 2017, published reports predicted FMSCA and FTA would raise the random drug test minimum to 50 percent in 2018. One report noted the positive rate in May 2017 was 0.96 percent. With increased availability of legalized cannabis and a proposed increase of the opioid panel for USDOT testing, news reports predicted, incorrectly, the positive rate would likely exceed the 1 percent threshold, triggering an increase in the random drug testing rate.
FMSCA announced in January the random rate would not change and that its drug test would likewise remain a 5-panel test: Marijuana (THC), Cocaine, Amphetamines, Opioids, and Phencyclidine (PCP). It added that the opioid test spectrum is increased this year resulting in an expansion to 14 of the total number of drugs that are tested in the 5-panel test.
However, at PHMSA, the agency was required to raise its 2018 random drug testing rate to 50 percent from 25 percent due to a positive test rate exceeding 1 percent in 2017.
Other USDOT random drug testing regulations, such as chain of custody forms, remain unchanged, the department stated.
Additional information can be found in the current USDOT best practices guidance for random drug and alcohol testing, available here.
Source: DOT, Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy and Compliance, Washington, DC.