With the hours of service (HOS) rules lifted nationally for the first time since 1938, truckers can work longer hours if they are providing emergency relief. While drivers might be able to skip required breaks or drive more than ever, it’s important that they and their operators prioritize safety as much as possible.
Now, the Department of Transportation (DOT) has issued guidance for drug and alcohol testing for transportation workers during the COVID-19 crisis. While the guidance doesn’t stray far from what’s always been required by DOT, it’s important for the industry to know what the agency expects.
Drug & Alcohol Testing for Truckers During the COVID-19 Crisis
As mentioned above, truckers are currently exempt from HOS rules if they are providing emergency relief to the grocery industry, medical workers, or delivering other essential products. However, DOT is reminding drivers and operators that they are still obligated to conduct drug screenings before placing a new driver behind the wheel.
In DOT’s guidance, issued on March 23, it provided details for what employers should do if their standard methods of drug testing are not available. It reminded them that they should “make a reasonable effort to locate the necessary resources.” If testing is impossible to accomplish, DOT advises that employers should comply with DOT requirements to document why a test was not performed on a new driver. Notably, DOT clarified that workers who do not have a “negative” pre-employment drug test result are not allowed to perform any safety-sensitive functions.
If employees are uncomfortable with going to facilities to receive testing because of the COVID-19 outbreak, DOT suggests that “employers to be sensitive to employees who indicate they are not comfortable or are afraid to go to clinics or collection sites. DOT asks employers to verify with the clinic or collection site that it has taken the necessary precautions to minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19.”
The COVID-19 Situation Requires Extra Vigilance from Operators & Drivers
While drivers are under fewer regulations than ever before, safety still matters. There are as many as 6,000 fatal truck accidents each year. While their current drivers can spend more time on the road, employers must remember that drug and alcohol testing regulations are still in effect. Questions about testing regulations during the COVID-19 outbreak can be read on the DOT page discussing the topic.