On December 21, 2015, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced that it is reducing the minimal annual percentage rate for random drug testing for drivers subject to the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) drug testing rules from the current rate of 50 percent of the average number of driver positions to 25 percent.  This reduction is effective in calendar year 2016.  The decrease does not prevent motor carriers from testing at a higher rate than 25 percent in 2016.  The minimum annual percentage rate for random alcohol testing will remain at 10 percent. 

In 2001, the FMCSA implemented a final rule entitled “Controlled Substances and Alcohol Use and Testing.”  The rule granted the FMCSA with the discretion to increase or decrease the minimum annual random testing percentage rate based on the reported positive random test rate for the entire motor carrier industry during a two-year period.  Although drug testing data for calendar years 2011 and 2012 reflected a positive rate for random drug testing that fell below one percent (the threshold set out in the final rule), the FMCSA maintained the random drug testing level at 50 percent.  However, after reviewing drug testing data in the FMCSA’s system for calendar years 2011, 2012, and 2013, and determining that the positive rate for random drug testing fell below the one percent threshold for the three consecutive calendar years (.70 percent, .90 percent and .60 percent, respectively), the FMCSA announced the decrease for 2016.  Nonetheless, the FMCSA will increase the annual random testing percentage rate back to 50 percent if the reported positive testing rate in calendar years 2014 or beyond is equal to or greater than one percent. 

The reduced random drug testing rate will likely be good news for DOT-regulated motor carriers, although further changes to the DOT testing regulations are expected as the FMCSA moves to implement hair and oral fluids testing.  All DOT-regulated motor carriers should stay abreast of drug and alcohol testing requirements at both the federal and state level.