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PHMSA Raises Random Testing Rate to 50% for 2018

Last updated on October 21st, 2020 at 05:42 pm

Pipeline Hazardous Materials Services Administration (PHMSA) announced in the Federal Register dated December 8, 2017 that the random testing rate for drugs would increase from 25% to 50%.  The question remains why and how did this happen.

There are questions to be asked for this event.

  1. Is it because of improved reporting?
  2. Is it because of increased general drug use among PHMSA covered employees?
  3. Was it the use of a drug (e.g., marijuana) that caused the increase?
  4. Will this rate increase transcend to other operating administrations?
  5. When can it return to 25% random testing rate?

Improved reporting is not the cause as the Federal Register notice alludes to other reporting methodologies and for the issuance of usernames and passwords to PHMSA regulated employees.  This has been an issue for several of the modes with no easy solution.  Once a username and password are issued, does that imply the employer is going to submit a report?  No, as the submitting of a reporting is still up to the employer.   Will the use of fines or penalties help?  No, as there are several hundred or thousands of employers to comply.  This large number makes it hard to get enforcement compliance

That is a debatable question as the Quest index has shown a general increase in drug use even in the regulated industries.  If this is the case, then it should appear with other transportation industries.  It should be noted that will be dependent upon reporting accuracy and enforcement of the testing program of the various modes.  Because as a rule, members of the public are not allowed to see the finalized Management Information System (MIS) reports for each operating administration, so it will be very difficult to see why and how the rates changed for each.

The increase has been in the use of marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes.  For a long time, the marijuana has been considered a “soft” drug when compared to other drugs.  It is this perception that leads personnel to use marijuana.  It is still a Schedule I Controlled Substance, not legal for use with any Federal testing program or on Federal Property or Federal waterway.

Will this transcend to the other transportation modes?  It is hard to say or predict currently but must wait and see.  Some of the operating administrations are required to publish annually the MIS report.

The testing rate can return to a 25% testing rate only after there has been two consecutive years of the positive rate below 1%.

See more here: PHMSA Notice

Content provided by Robert Schoening