As of January 1, 2020, according to a release on Dec. 27th published in the Federal Register, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has increased the minimum annual percentage rate for random testing for commercial vehicle drivers. In 2019, the annual rate for random testing was 25%, or approximately 1.05 million tests. The new annual random testing rate has been increased to 50%, meaning that approximately 2.1 million random tests will need to be conducted in 2020.

“This change reflects the increased positive test rate and will result in an estimated $50 million to $70 million increase in costs to the industry by requiring that more drivers be tested,”

From the Federal Register document

In 2016, the FMCSA dropped the random testing rate to 25%, but this change returns the random testing rate to what it had been prior to the drop. The statement from the Federal Register explains that the FMCSA bases its random testing pool requirements on the data received from their yearly survey, which is sent to selected motor carriers. The yearly survey seeks to obtain information on the number of random tests done by the motor carriers, as well as what the positive rates were for tests. 

The FMCSA’s rule titled “Controlled Substances and Alcohol Use and Testing”, published in 2001, stipulates the process which must be followed when assessing whether to increase or decrease the testing rate. The rule requires the administrator to increase the annual random testing percentage rate if the data received from the surveys shows that the reported positive rate is equal to or greater than 1%. As the FMCSA’s 2018 Drug and Alcohol Testing Survey revealed the rate had increased from 0.8% in 2017 (0.7% in 2016) to over 1% in 2018, an increase to the random testing rate was required.

Tom Bray, a transportation industry consultant at J.J. Keller, notes that the rate may have increased due to the addition of the four synthetic opioids to the Department of Transportation’s required testing panel: hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxymorphone, and oxycodone. 

A point of frustration for many motor carriers is that the notification was announced with such short notice, with most companies having already completed their budget planning for the upcoming year. As Tom Bray stated, “That is a major issue in the country in general, our group of drivers represents the country. If the country’s having trouble with opioids, so are drivers.”