COVID-19, Transportation

COVID-19: FMCSA Expands Regulatory Relief to Licensing, Drug Testing

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has provided additional regulatory relief in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. New steps taken by FMCSA include temporarily allowing drivers with expired Commercial Driver’s Licenses (CDLs) to continue operating commercial motor vehicles (CMVs), allowing drivers with Commercial Learner’s Permits (CLPs) to drive without an observer, and allowing employers to make up for missed random drug and alcohol testing later this year.

Trucks, truck drivers, trucking industry

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COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 virus, first identified in Wuhan City, China in December 2019.

FMCSA temporarily waived requirements that a CLP holder be accompanied by a CDL holder seated in the front seat of a vehicle while the CLP holder operates a CMV. The waiver became effective March 28 and expires either on June 30 or the revocation of the President’s declaration of national emergency.

The waiver also allows State Driver Licensing Agencies (SDLAs) to administer driving skills tests to out-of-state CDL applicants, regardless of where applicants received driver training.

In a separate waiver, FMCSA:

  • Extended until June 30, the maximum period of CDL validity by waiving requirements for CDLs due for renewal on or after March 1;
  • Extended until June 30, the maximum period of CLP validity by waiving requirements for CLPs that are due for renewal on or after March 1, and without requiring CLP holders to retake the general and endorsement knowledge tests;
  • Waived requirements that CLP holders wait 14 days to take the CDL skills test;
  • Waived requirements that CDL holders, CLP holders, and non-CDL drivers have a new medical examination and certification, provided that they have proof of a valid medical certification that was issued for a period of 90 days or longer and that expired on or after March 1; and
  • Waived requirements that, to maintain the medical certification status of “certified,” CDL or CLP holders provide SDLAs with an original or copy of a subsequently issued medical examiner’s certificate, provided they have proof of a valid medical certification that expired on or after March 1.

FMCSA also will allow adjustments in the performance of mandatory random drug and alcohol testing. Motor carriers are required this year to select and test CDL holders at a 50% rate for drug testing and 10% for alcohol testing.

If motor carriers are unable to select and test drivers at those rates due to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 national emergency, they should make up the tests by the end of the year, FMCSA said in new guidance. However, motor carriers may not allow a prospective employee to perform safety-sensitive duties until the employer receives a negative pre-employment test result. They also may not allow a driver to return to duty until RTD testing has been performed and there is a negative result.

If a motor carrier cannot perform a post-accident alcohol test within 8 hours following an accident or controlled substance test within 32 hours of an accident, due to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 national emergency, the motor carrier must document in writing the specific reasons why the test could not be conducted.

Motor carriers also must document in writing the specific reasons why a reasonable suspicion test cannot be performed. Documentation should include observations leading to the reasonable suspicions, as well as, efforts to mitigate testing disruption, such as attempting to find an alternative test site.

Motor carriers also must document reasons that follow-up testing cannot be performed.