Image: FMCSA

Image: FMCSA

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will lower the annual minimum random drug-testing rate for CDL holders from 50% of the average number of CDL-driver positions to 25% annually for the 2016 calendar year, effective January 1. The agency announced the policy change on Dec. 21.

FMCSA explained that the action was driven by a federal regulation that requires the agency to adjust the mandatory testing threshold based on a random survey it conducts to ensure compliance with the set testing rates. When the compliance data received for two consecutive calendar years indicates that the positive rate for controlled substances is less than 1%, the FMCSA administrator has the discretion to lower the minimum annual testing rate.

The agency said that while the survey resulted in a positive rate of less than 1% for the 2011 and 2012 testing years, Acting Administrator T.F. Scott Darling chose to maintain the 50% rate for another year.

But when the 2013 testing year also showed a positive rate of less than 1%, Darling approved the move to the lower testing rate for 2016.

However, FMCSA pointed out that “if at any time the positive rate for controlled substances exceeds one percent, the testing rate will revert back to 50%.”

The agency noted that the minimum annual percentage rate for random alcohol testing will remain at 10% for calendar year 2016.

The New Jersey Motor Truck Association called the FMCSA’s action “significant” and stated that it resulted in large part to the advocacy efforts of the American Trucking Associations.

“ATA met with FMCSA on this issue early last year, helped gather relevant data, and encouraged FMCSA to take the appropriate step of reducing the testing burden if the industry's performance continued to meet the agency's standard,” said NJMTA, an ATA affiliate.