New DOT Drug Testing Rules for 2018 and ELD Update

by gspencermynko

Drivers and Trucking Companies Need to Know about the New DOT Regulations regarding drug testing.

On November 13, 2017, the Department of Transportation (DOT) published a final rule that changes its drug testing rules and regulations. The rules were added to meet new Health and Human Services (HHS) drug testing guidelines, and to help combat the opioid epidemic.

The DOT amended its drug testing program regulation to add four semi-synthetic, specific opiates hydrocodone (brand name Vicodin, Lortab, Norco), hydromorphone (brand name Dilaudid), oxymorphone (brand name Opana), and oxycodone (brand name Percodan, Percocet, Oxycontin) to its drug-testing panel; add methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA); and remove methylenedioxyethylamphetamine (MDEA). The revision of the drug-testing panel harmonizes DOT regulations with the revised HHS Mandatory Guidelines established by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for Federal drug-testing programs for urine testing.

The addition of the synthetic opioid drugs is intended to address the nationwide epidemic of prescription painkiller abuse. Here are the highlights of what trucking companies and truckers need to know about the new testing procedures:

1. The new testing standards go into effect January 1, 2018

2. Four new drugs are being tested: Hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxycodone and oxymorphone are Schedule II controlled substances for commonly known by their brand names listed above.FMCSA still refers to its drug testing panel as a 5-panel, but “opiates” is being changed to “opioids” and now will include these four semi-synthetic substances in addition to heroin, morphine and codeine.

3. The DOT removed MDEA from the drug test panel and added MDA in its place. What is MDA you ask? 3,4-Methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA) is a psychostimulant and psychedelic drug of the amphetamine family that is encountered mainly as a recreational drug. Interestingly, MDA is rarely used as a recreational drug. However, what is most important about MDA is that MDMA (Street name Ecstasy) is metabolized by the liver into MDA. So an Ecstasy user will likely have MDA in their urine, and a positive urine test for MDA is highly suggestive of recent Ecstasy use.

4. What medications disqualify a CMV driver? A driver cannot take a controlled substance or prescription medication without a prescription from a licensed practitioner. However, if a driver uses a drug identified in 21 CFR 1308.11 (391.42(b)(12)) or any other substance such as amphetamine, a narcotic, or any other habit forming drug, The driver is medically unqualified. Therefore, even if you have a prescription and a legitimate reason for taking the above semi-synthetic opioids, you cannot drive a semi-truck.

5. There is an exception to item #4: the prescribing doctor can write that the driver is safe to be a commercial driver while taking the medication. In this case, the Medical Examiner may, but does not have to certify the driver. The Medical Examiner has 2 ways to determine if any medication a driver uses will adversely affect safe operation of a CMV: 1. Review each medication – prescription, non-prescription and supplement, or 2. Request a letter from the prescribing doctor.

One opioid that is a major driver of opioid overdoses is NOT tested for in DOT regulated tests and is undetectable in routine urine testing.

Fentanyl is an opioid which is used as a pain medication and together with other medications for anesthesia. Fentanyl is extremely potent (about 100 times more potent than morphine, and 50 times more potent than heroin). Fentanyl is now being produced in illicit labs, is flooding the streets, and is responsible for thousands of opioid overdoses. Only highly specialized testing will detect fentanyl – it will not be picked up on any DOT approved urine test.

While the purpose of this article is not to discuss drug abuse (I think that’ll be another article), I mention this to remind everyone that no drug test is perfect and people who are actively using drugs can have “clean” tests.

ELD enforcement to be ‘phased in’ through April 2018

I’m sure most, if not all, of you are aware that the December 18, 2017 deadline for compliance with the federal electronic logging device mandate is now reality. However, I want to remind my readers that the 10-hour out-of-service order associated with non-compliance with the mandate will begin April 1, 2018

“Beginning April 1, 2018, inspectors will start placing commercial motor vehicle drivers out of service if their vehicle is not equipped with the required device,” the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) said in a statement. The April 1 “effective date” for applying electronic logging device (ELD) out-of-service criteria will give truckers and shippers time to adjust to the rule with “minimal disruption to the delivery of goods. In short, truckers may receive a citation (and associated fine) if they do not have ELDs installed and operating Dec. 18, but they will not be ordered off the road and out-of-service. Information on companies and drivers that receive citations could be used by regulators to identify and investigate carriers suspected of not complying with the mandate. Starting April 1, however, truck drivers that do not have ELDs will not drive away from a roadside inspection. They will be placed out-of-service by the state regulatory officials, roadside inspectors, and police officers represented by the CVSA, using its North American Out of Service Criteria. Someone else will have to pick up the freight being hauled by that out-of-service driver. “CVSA member jurisdictions have used this phased-in approach in the past when implementing a significant change in regulatory requirements”. The CVSA board and FMCSA agreed the two-phase enforcement strategy would be the best approach and would “promote a smoother transition to the new ELD requirement.” However, truckers, fleet operators, brokers, and shippers should not delay compliance plans. Those that do not take advantage of the “wiggle room” the phased-in approach affords may find themselves in a tight spot April 1.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration confirmed CVSA’s enforcement plans. FMCSA also confirmed that the delay in out-of-service enforcement does not affect the the date by which truckers must adopt an automatic onboard recording device (AOBRD – a form of electronic logging system with more limited functionality than an ELD) if they want to extend their ELD compliance to December 2019. “After Dec. 18, 2017, if you don’t have an AOBRD or ELD the violation will be cited, and a driver could be fined, but they won’t be put out of service. Companies that continually violate the rule could be subject to federal investigation as well,” says FMCSA spokesperson Duane DeBruyne.

Violations related to ELDs will, in a way, be considered hours of service violations, such as not having a logbook, having false logs and not maintaining previous seven days of duty status. For instance, a driver or carrier not using a logging device that fits with federal requirements will be “considered to have no record of duty status,” according to updated out-of-service criteria issued by CVSA earlier this year.

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