Recent FMCSA Guidelines Clarification May Surprise Many Operators

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Prescription drug testing

At a recent Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) annual drug and alcohol screening conference, Jim Keenan,an industry expert and former program administrator for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) provided an interesting interpretation of the current rules of the FMCSA as they pertain to the use of prescription drugs by drivers.

Currently, many FMCSA-regulated organizations are wary of requiring their drivers to disclose the use of prescription medications, as this could potentially be seen as a violation of the drivers’ rights to health privacy or could otherwise be interpreted as discriminating against their medical disability. According to a lively discussion at this conference, however, this historical approach is ripe for change.

Disclosure of Certain Prescribed Medications could Potentially be Required
As reported by Mr. Keenan, organizations regulated by the FMCSA could potentially be allowed to require their drivers to proactively report the use of all prescription medications currently being used pursuant to 49 CFR 382.213. Given that many commonly prescribed medications can have powerful effects and could therefore impact driving ability if they are taken during the performance of duties, requiring this information of drivers could have a net positive effect on safety.

If the driver does not disclose the list of medications currently being taken and the motor carrier becomes privy to the driver using this medication during the performance of safety-sensitive activities, the company may be able to take adverse action against the driver.

The consequences for failing to disclose pursuant to 382.213 could be similar to a positive drug test under FMCSA regulation and result in the driver’s removal from duty, remanding to treatment, and requirement that all future transportation employers be notified of the violation.

This interpretation of FMCSA guidelines may come as a surprise to many regulated organizations, which may have not incorporated this practice scenario in their safety programs. As always, regulated organizations should discuss this matter with their own legal counsel to better gauge whether this new interpretation would be applicable to their safety program.

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