The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced in a rule to be published in the Federal Register on November 13, 2017, that it will expand its drug testing panel to include four synthetic opioid drugs: hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxycodone and oxymorphone. In addition, FMCSA will add methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA) as an initial test analyte, and remove methylenedioxyethylamphetamine (MDEA) as a confirmatory test analyte. These changes are being made to harmonize FMCSA’s drug testing regulations with recent changes to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing Programs. The changes to FMCSA’s rules take effect on January 1, 2018.

The addition of the synthetic opioid drugs is intended to address the nationwide epidemic of prescription painkiller abuse. Hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxycodone and oxymorphone are Schedule II controlled substances and are more commonly known as Vicodin, OxyContin, Lortab, Norco, and Dilaudid, among others. 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 synthetic substances in addition to heroin, morphine and codeine.

FMCSA’s new rules also make certain technical amendments, clarify certain definitions and remove the requirement for employers and Consortium/Third Party Administrators to submit blind specimens.

FMCSA-regulated employers should revise their drug and alcohol testing policies to conform to the regulations that are effective on January 1, 2018.