New Drug Panel Impacts Fleets in 2018

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14 Dec 2017

Beginning on January 1, 2018 new Department of Transportation (DOT) drug testing panels go into effect. The Health and Human Services (HHS) Mandatory Guidelines were revised in 2017. The new guidelines apply to Federal drug-testing programs for urine testing and now the DOT regulations are being brought in line with those rules.

Immediate areas of impact to the transportation industry are:

  1. Expected increase in laboratory positive test results
  2. General increase in drug testing costs
  3. Revision of drug and alcohol company policies

The final rule mandates that all drivers and other safety-sensitive employees in the transportation industry will be required to be tested for opioids hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxymorphone, and oxycodone. Opioids are commonly prescribed for pain.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 20% of patients presenting to physician offices with non-cancer pain symptoms or pain-related diagnoses receive an opioid prescription. In 2012, there were 259 million reported prescriptions for opioid pain medication, enough for every adult in the US to have a bottle of pills and in 2017 that number has increased by more than 7%. America is facing an opioid crisis.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao, said in a press release, “The opioid crisis is a threat to public safety when it involves safety-sensitive employees involved in the operation of any kind of vehicle or transport.”

Increased Positive Lab Results

Adding these common drugs to the testing panel is expected to increase the number of positive lab results. Estimates from Dr. Todd Simo, certified MRO, indicate that the new panel could, and probably will, yield a lab positive hit rate of 1.16%, an increase of over 500%. Drivers must disclose if they have been prescribed one of these medications and employers must ensure that the employee has been medically “cleared” to perform their safety sensitive functions when following prescription dosage instructions.

Testing Prices Climb

With the additional testing and the possibility for increased positive lab results comes additional costs associated with laboratory and Medical Review Officer (MRO) services. Carriers need to expect and plan for the possibility of increased rates for DOT drug testing.

New Company Policies

Several fleets may already be testing for these opioids in their non-DOT screenings. One of the changes in the published rule states that DOT will use the term “opioids” to replace “opiates” in the definition of “Drugs” under Part 40. Motor carriers will likely need to revise their written drug and alcohol testing policies to address these new testing requirements.

Secretary Chao concluded, “The ability to test for a broader range of opioids will advance transportation safety significantly and provide another deterrence to opioid abuse, which will better protect the public and ultimately save lives.”

One of the solutions Lee Trans offers to companies involved in transportation is Drug & Alcohol Testing solutions.  Carriers can operate with the confidence that comes from having accurate information regarding drivers and DOT requirements. Please call us at (800)569-1675 or click here for more information.