Excerpted from CCJ Commercial Carrier Journal by James Jaillet

The word “mandatory” has been batted around in headlines and social media posts the last few weeks describing long-in-the-works reforms to driver drug testing protocol. But what, exactly, will be mandatory for fleets? And when?

In short, nothing will be mandatory for carriers, really. And as to when any reforms to drug testing might be made — likely not for at least another 18 months, and maybe longer, and those reforms will be optional for fleets when performing driver drug tests.

I’ve seen posts lately on social media platforms and websites along the lines of “Mandatory drug testing almost here,” or “Mandatory hair testing proposal released,” in describing the proposed set of guidelines issued by the U.S. Health Department as to how fleets and drug test administrators should handle hair testing once DOT allows it.

Despite lingering confusion, fleets will not be required to use hair sample testing in driver drug tests, nor will drivers be required to take a hair sample drug test in a blanketed rule. And those regs certainly aren’t “almost here.”

In reality, fleets will be able to test drivers for hair in lieu of a urine test if they so choose. Thus, drivers applying for jobs at fleets that choose to do so must submit to that hair sample testing or face a flag in the U.S. DOT’s CDL Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse – the database that tracks drivers who have failed or refused a drug test and that fleets must check when making hiring decisions. These changes would only take effect after DOT finalizes a rule to do so, which is still likely at least a year out — and potentially much farther. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the rule change dragged out several more years.
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