Oral fluid drug testing approved by DOT

Trucking news and briefs for Tuesday, May 2, 2023:

DOT approves oral fluid drug testing for trucking

The Department of Transportation on Tuesday published a final rule that will allow oral fluid as an authorized testing method for the presence of unlawful drugs. The 227-page final rule  will become effective on June 1. 

In order for an employer to implement oral fluid testing under DOT's regulation, however, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will need to certify at least two laboratories for oral fluid testing, which has not yet been done. In essence, the DOT has cleared a regulatory hurdle that allows for oral fluid testing, but those tests are not yet authorized until HHS makes its certifications. 

DOT in February proposed amending the transportation industry’s drug testing program procedures regulation to allow oral fluid testing in lieu of urine testing, following a 2022 comment period, giving "employers a choice that will help combat employee cheating on urine drug tests and provide a less intrusive means of achieving the safety goals of the program."

The measure comes as the number of drivers flagged for drug infractions continues to climb. As of Jan. 1, 2022, 81,052 professional drivers were in prohibited status in FMCSA's Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse with a violation. A year later, that number reached 120,345, and less than nine weeks ago was at 125,810. 

Oral fluid collection mitigates cheating, it's contended, since the test is administered face-to-face, usually with a sample collector swabbing inside the cheek of an applicant, and the DOT contends "adding oral fluid testing as an option is consistent with the careful balancing of an individual’s right to privacy with the Department’s strong interest in preserving transportation safety by deterring illicit drug use."

Prior to the issuing of the final rule, urinalysis and blood analysis (in limited circumstances) were the only acceptable means to conduct DOT drug screenings. 

Among benefits for trucking companies of oral testing, DOT said, are that it’s generally cheaper than urine testing (DOT estimates between $10 and $20 cheaper per test versus urine). DOT also noted that by giving the option of both urine and oral testing, employers can use one or the other,  depending on the situation, due to the different detection windows associated with each.

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The department said the generally narrower detection window offered by oral fluid testing could give fleets a better chance at detecting recent drug use, such as for a post-accident drug test, adding "while oral fluid testing may provide a better indicator of an employee’s recent use of the drug, it also detects frequent users ... [but] we note that oral fluid windows of detection will likely be shorter than for urine. Employers, working in conjunction with their service agents, should determine whether urine or oral fluid collection is best for their program and in what contexts."

There has also been an ongoing push to recognize hair testing. The FAST Act transportation bill, signed into law by President Obama in December 2015, allowed for hair follicle drug testing as a DOT-approved method, but not until HHS establishes guidelines for testing. The FAST Act mandated that those guidelines be developed within a year of the Act becoming law, but HHS did not publish proposed guidelines until September 2020. HHS has not yet issued a final version of those guidelines.

[Related: FMCSA tightens reporting of drivers' drug and alcohol violation history]

Colorado passes 'zero emission' truck regs

The state of Colorado late last week joined California in approving rules designed to encourage the use of "zero emission" vehicles (ZEVs).

The Mile High State's set of regulations are considerably less restrictive than those passed Friday on the West Coast, which require all new medium- and heavy-duty vehicles sold or registered in the state to be ZEVs by 2036 and requires all trucks to be ZEVs by 2042.

The Colorado Air Quality Control Commission on April 28 approved a plan that would convert most of the medium- and heavy-duty trucks sold in the state to ZEVs beginning in 2027.

The state's goal is to have 40% of all medium- and heavy-duty trucks sold in the state be powered by ZEV engines by 2035. The new regulation, however, does not require that companies purchase such vehicles. They only require manufacturers to make the trucks available for sale. 

[Related: California banning diesel truck sales in 2036]

Volvo, Mack EVs recalled over possible electrical short

Volvo Trucks and Mack Trucks are recalling some of their electric trucks due to an issue related to the coolant lines in the battery packs, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration documents.

Volvo is recalling approximately 125 model year 2020-'24 Volvo VNR Electric trucks, and Mack is recalling just two model year 2023 Mack LR Electric trucks. In the affected trucks, the coolant line in the high-voltage battery pack may not be fully seated and locked, which can result in the loss of coolant and an electrical short circuit.

Volvo and Mack will work with the battery manufacturer Akasol to inspect and replace the batteries, as necessary, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed June 16. Owners may contact Volvo Trucks' customer service at 800-528-6586 with recall number RVXX 2304 or Mack’s customer service at 800-866-1177 with recall number SC0442. NHTSA’s recall number is 23V-280 (Volvo) and 23V-281 (Mack).

[Related: Owners need to engage on zero-emissions targets]

FleetPride acquires Indiana truck, trailer repair shop

FleetPride announced Tuesday that it has acquired the assets of Frame Service, Inc., based in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Frame Service is a full-service truck and trailer maintenance and repair shop serving the industry since 1948 with a strong reputation for quality and timely service in the Fort Wayne area.

"Today we are excited to welcome the Frame Service team to the FleetPride family,” said Mike Harris, FleetPride president of parts and service. “Frame Service adds growth in the Indiana market with broad capabilities in parts and service, and a wealth of heavy duty expertise. As we continue building e-commerce capabilities at FleetPride.com for ease and speed of doing business, expanding our network at the same time enables us to better serve local, regional, and national fleets faster to keep trucks on the road.  We look forward to becoming part of the Fort Wayne community."

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