The U.S. Department of Transportation recently rewarded truck drivers by reducing the number of required drug tests for the first time since 1989 when mandated testing began.


It’s pretty simple. And it’s in the code. For the last three years, the positive rate among drivers with Commercial Drivers Licenses has been less than 1%. That’s great news for drivers, the companies they work for, and for those of us who share the highways with them.

So, for 2016, CDLs subject to FMCSA drug testing requirements will be tested at a rate of 25% rather than 50%.

But it wasn’t always that way.

Quest Diagnostics’ Drug Test Index reports a positive rate for CDLs of 2.6% in 1992. It would be reasonable to assume that much of this drop in positive drug tests over the years can be attributed to the deterrent effect of random testing.

Of course, it’s certainly possible that drivers are using substances that are not included in the DOT drug panel.* Regardless, there is a strong correlation between the decline in positive rates and the implementation of mandated random testing in 1989.

Positive rates on the rise for non-mandated industries

The most recent Drug Test Index also shows a relative 9.3% increase in positive tests for non-mandated industries in 2014, with the positive rate increasing to 4.7% from 4.3% the prior year (it was . That’s nearly five times the number of positives as FMCSA employees, and this is only in companies that test. You can bet usage is much higher in companies that don’t test. The  2012 SAMHSA National Survey on Drug Use and Health puts drug use among the full-time employed at 8.9%

Sure, legalized marijuana in some states played a role in the recent increase, but the positivity rate for cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine rose too.

So what does this mean for your company?

If the goal is a safe, secure, drug-free workplace, random drug testing works. Substance abuse among truck drivers dropped dramatically as a result of of random drug testing. It just plain works.

At InOut Labs, we actually have more employees in our non-DOT random pools than we do drivers in our FMCSA consortium. These employers choose to maintain a positive, drug-free company culture, not because the law requires it, but because they believe it is the best way to maintain a safe, productive workplace.

Incidentally, we do get some positive results in these non-DOT programs, and from people who previously passed a pre-employment test. And some are office workers.

If your company doesn’t currently test, there is no time like the present to get started. If you don’t do random testing, you may have a few sneaking in under the radar. In any case, when you have questions, ask us.


*The following drugs are not included in the DOT drug panel:

  • Synthetic opiates (e.g., Oxycontin, Vicodin)
  • Barbiturates (e.g., Seconal, Nembutal, Phenobarbital)
  • Propoxyphene (e.g., Darvon)
  • Benzodiazepines (e.g., Valium, Ativan, Xanax)
  • Methadone (often used to treat heroin addiction).
  • Other synthetics (K2/Spice, Bath Salts)

Note: Whether you employ CDLs or not, if safety is really your priority, you should consider including or adding test for these drugs. We have a number of clients who have both DOT and non-DOT testing programs.