Lab Delays Increase with Quarterly Testing Spike, Shipping Delays, and CCF Errors

Lab Delays Increase with Quarterly Testing Spike, Shipping Delays, and CCF Errors

Many businesses requiring pre-employment or random drug testing are seeing delays in drug tests across the country.

We understand the frustration to get these employees working as quickly as possible. As we continually reach out to labs to check the status of the specimens for our client’s, below are what we are seeing causing the delays.

Shipping delays in drug screen specimens arriving at the lab

These shipping delays are due to heavy package volume caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, COVID-19 business closures, staffing shortages, weather, and other service disruptions.

There is also an especially large volume of specimens at end of each quarter as companies and consortiums need to meet the minimum DOT testing percentage requirements.

At least 50% of DOT governed employees in a testing pool must be randomly tested for drugs while 10% must be tested for alcohol by the end of the testing year. These minimum testing requirements are managed on a quarterly basis.

If these numbers are not met for any pool, every company that has drivers in that pool is out of compliance with the DOT.

Other shipping delays may occur due to the timing of the courier pickup. For example, a specimen collected at 4:50pm might miss the collection site’s courier pickup and would not get to the lab for an extra day. A specimen collected at 8:30am will ship at the same time as every other specimen collected that day (often around 3-5 pm). Also, a specimen collected on a Friday, might not be tested at the lab until Monday.  

These delays are affecting the entire US, not just isolated areas. However, in some isolated cases, specimens are taking up to 7 days to arrive at the lab. 

Lab turnaround delays

With lab turnarounds being an issue, it is important to note that labs are experiencing the same staffing shortages as other businesses. 

In July, i3screen reported that there are turnaround delays on test results due to staffing shortages at several laboratories, affecting both Quest and LabCorp.

Laboratories receive thousands of specimens each night from couriers and lab technicians, review all chain of custody forms to make sure each chain does not have missing information, and perform a Gas Chromatography – Mass Spectrometry (GCMS) test on samples with trace amounts of drugs during the initial screen.

If there is any trace of drugs in that initial screen’s sample, it goes through a GCMS test once or multiple times (after breaking down the urine sample further) until the test produces an affirmative negative, positive, negative-dilute, or positive-dilute result.

Since a batch of drug test samples gets processed once every 24 hours during the GCMS testing, the staffing shortage is likely to backlog these processes further.

For our clients, as soon as a result is reported to the MRO team, we will get the results out as soon as possible. CNS is not experiencing any delays within the MRO department and results that come in from the lab that can be released to the client are sent out within 2 hours. 

Collection site error delays

Errors made by the employer or collection site may require affidavits to be completed and sent back to the lab for the technicians to verify again before they will even run the test.

With staffing shortages affecting the largest drug screening labs across the country, the delays in turnaround will be most visible with these chain of custody form flaws.

An example of a correctable flaw is when the lab receives an old CCF, missing signatures, etc.

In addition, certain affidavits/items are legally required by the MRO team before results can be released such as: DOT upgrades and downgrades, MRO copies of the CCFs, missing temperatures, etc.

These types of errors cause significant delays. 

Drug and Alcohol Services

CNS offers a comprehensive Drug and Alcohol Consortium Service and are a certified consortium and third-party administrator (C/TPA).

Our experts ensure that all DOT rules and regulations are followed, including the implementation of random drug tests for you and your drivers, updating your company drug testing policies, record retention and document purge management.

We take all the necessary steps and precautions to keep you and your drivers compliant with the DOT drug and alcohol testing requirements.

For more information, contact us at 888.260.9448 or

When to Use the Most Effective Methods of Drug Testing in Company Policies

DOT Drug and Alcohol Testing | DOT Compliance Services | CNS

Of the three different types of drug testing – urine, oral saliva, and hair testing – which one is most effective to determine drug use?

Urine has been the “gold standard” as the most common method for drug testing across the industry, even as oral (saliva) and hair testing techniques have improved reliability over last few decades.

As we wait for Health and Human Services (HHS) to release hair testing guidelines and the Department of Transportation to adopt those guidelines for safety sensitive positions across Aviation, Commercial Motor Carriers (FMCSA), Maritime, Pipeline, Railroad, and Transit, the discussion of what type of drug testing methods are most effective is now heating up.

Unfortunately, there are many who are misguided on the strategy of when to use each drug testing method as there are pros and cons to each method and the reasons for testing.

So, let us break this down for you.


What is the most effective method for drug testing?

The problem with this question is companies are considering dropping urine for oral or hair testing for every type of reason an employee would be tested. This is misguided.

It is important to note that there are various restrictive state drug testing regulations that may prevent companies from drug testing, who they can or cannot drug test and why. 

Regardless, companies need to remember the various reasons they are testing employees. These are:

  • Pre-employment
  • Reasonable Suspicion
  • Post-accident
  • Random
  • Follow-Up or Return-to-Duty

Each reason for testing has their own goals for keeping employees and assets safe.

For example, the goal of pre-employment testing is making sure your staff, especially in safety-sensitive positions, do not have a history of drug abuse. In this situation, it would be ideal to use a drug testing method that provides a longer drug use history. Conversely, for reasonable suspicion testing, a shorter drug detection window would be more effective as it can accurately find recent drug use.

Understanding which method for testing has a shorter detection window would help companies decide if that method is best for this reason.


Breaking down collection testing methods

To help make choices on which method of testing is best for your company and reason for testing, we need to break down and compare urine, hair, and oral saliva testing into:

  • Detection Window
  • Collection Time
  • Turnaround Time
  • Ideal Reason for Testing


Urine TestingOral (Saliva) TestingHair Testing
RegulatedHHS + DOTPending HHS + DOTPending HHS + DOT
Detection Window2 – 7 days8 – 48 hours, short detection window7 – 90 days, long detection window
Collection Time10+ min depending on if donor did not provide enough sample15 minutes, non-invasive5 minutes, less invasive
Turnaround Time24-48 hours24-72 hours24-72 hours
Ideal Reason for TestingSuitable for all testing reasonsReasonable Suspicion & post-accident testing programPost-accident, reasonable suspicion, pre-employment, and random testing program


Now that we understand the pros and cons to each method of drug testing, let us dive into which method is most effective for the reasons a company would drug test.

Urine testing: As the most common testing method, urine testing can detect recent use, between one to three days and is suitable for all testing reasons and types of drugs being tested.

Oral saliva testing: Mouth swab testing is the least invasive method of testing and can detect recent drug use within the first few hours to 48 hours. This makes oral testing the best testing method for both reasonable suspicion and post-accident testing.  

Hair testing: Using hair samples from the body is the only method of drug testing that can detect drugs and alcohol in the system from a week to 90+ days, unlike urine testing, which only detects drugs and alcohol up to 7 days. In recent statistics from Quest, hair testing provides nearly twice the number of positives drug tests than urine testing due to its longer detection time-frame and is the best option for a pre-employment or random testing program.

When looking at updating your company drug testing policies, we believe a mix in methods is the most beneficial in your drug testing programs. Again, it is important to note that there are various restrictive state drug testing regulations that may prevent companies from drug testing, who they can or cannot test and why. 


Drug and Alcohol Services

At CNS, we offer a comprehensive Drug and Alcohol Consortium Service and are a certified consortium and third-party administrator (C/TPA).

Our experts ensure that all DOT rules and regulations are followed, including the implementation of random drug tests for you and your drivers, updating your company drug testing policies, record retention and document purge management.

We take all the necessary steps and precautions to keep you and your drivers compliant with the DOT drug and alcohol testing requirements.

For more information, contact us at 888.260.9448 or

COVID-19 Pandemic Increases Positive Drug Tests and On-Site Testing

Since the emergence of COVID-19, the importance of drug and alcohol testing and driver physicals have not changed, especially considering positive drug testing rates have increased in April and May since 2019.

According to Clinical Reference Laboratories (CRL), positive drug test rates are up by more than 16% in April and 24.1% in May year-over-year. The culprit during the pandemic is marijuana, which increased 21% in April and 37.8% in May compared to the previous year. 

Similarly, DISA’s random positive drug testing rates have more than doubled, up from 0.18% in April 2019 to 0.37% in May 2020.

Employers, more now than ever, are taking employee health more seriously and attempting to make the required drug tests and driver physicals more convenient as they do not want to put workers at risk if health clinics are being used to test people who have COVID-19 symptoms.

With the hyper-focus of clean and safe facilities, minimizing hospital sites, and navigating collection sites or medical offices closing, many fleets are turning to on-site mobile drug testing.

This allows fleets to manage when drivers can be drug tested or receive required physical exams, trust their COVID health protocols, and not worry about busy testing and physical exam sites.

Trusted mobile collection sites are maintaining effective drug-testing procedures during the pandemic while increasing their on-site safety guidelines, which includes:

  • Stopping any testing if an illness is evident and advising the customer
  • Staff wearing appropriate Personal Protective Equipment during test sessions
  • Cleaning instruments and testing area after every test
  • Maintaining a minimum safe distance wherever practical, and
  • Treating the Donor with courtesy and respect at all times

On-site testing not only  employee safety during the pandemic, recent studies have shown that on-site and mobile collection testing has a higher rate of positives than clinic based testing.

This is most likely due to the element of surprise, where drivers may normally be able to purchase products in hopes of cheating their drug test or less opportunities for subversion of the testing process.

Check out our industry library resources of 15 videos, 2 ebooks, industry links, and CNS In The News content.

Can drivers refuse a drug test claiming COVID-19 pandemic concerns?

If your employees express concern about reporting for a drug test, on-site testing can assure them that employer guidelines are in place to protect them during drug testing and physical procedures.

It is important to note, if an employee refuses a drug test for any reason (including COVID-19 concerns), it is reported as a refusal to test.

This means collectors document the refusal and follow the company’s guidelines as outlined in its refusal to test policy.

If the company is regulated by the DOT, refusals are reported to the MRO (Medical Review Officer), reviewed, and a decision is made on whether or not it is a refusal to test based on the circumstances.

No matter the outcome, the driver will not be allowed to perform safety-sensitive functions, such as driving, during this process.

Mobile Drug and Alcohol Services

Want to save time and money?

If your company is committed to creating and maintaining a drug-free workplace with little to no interruptions in your operations, on-site collection may be the right option for you.

Our medical professionals are available to go on-site and perform drug and alcohol tests.

On-site drug and alcohol testing can be scheduled at your place of business or any other location of your choosing.

We are extremely flexible and can accommodate the busiest of schedules and various types of operations.

Our Certified DOT Examiners, Certified Collectors and Breath Alcohol Technicians (BAT) are readily available to serve you.

How does Mobile Drug Testing work?

  1. Schedule an on-site testing appointment for your company.
  2. We send appointment confirmation and a letter to all of your employees letting them know what to bring to the exam (upon request).
  3. Our professional staff will arrive 10 minutes early to set up.
  4. Our certified staff will provide collection services in an efficient manner.
  5. CNS will send samples to the certified lab. (24-48 turnaround time for DOT 5 Panel)
  6. Results upload by the Medical Review Officer (MRO) to your portal.

For more information, contact us at 888.260.9448 or

FMCSA Extends Waiver for Pre-Employment Testing

FMCSA extends waiver for pre-employment testing

COVID-19 Pre-Employment Testing

As more businesses are opening back up from the COVID-19 health emergency, the FMCSA earlier this month extended a waiver for pre-employment testing that would reduce drug-testing costs as they rehire drivers.

Current regulations require that new-hire drivers must pass a pre-employment drug and alcohol test for controlled substances before they can perform safety-sensitive functions. These pre-employment drug tests are waived if the new-hire driver was part of a drug testing program within the previous 30 days and was either tested for controlled substances within the past six months or participated in the random controlled substances testing program for the previous 12 months.

This waiver has been extended from 30 days to 90 days and only valid when hiring drivers on or before September 30, 2020. This is basically extending the length of time a driver can be out of a random testing pool from 30 days to 90 days and be exempt from pre-employment testing if all criteria are met as stated in 382.301(b).

This is in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency where many employers have laid off, furloughed, or temporarily removed employees from safety-sensitive functions and removed from the random pool for controlled substances and alcohol testing for a period greater than 30 days.

According to the FMCSA, “As employers begin to recall drivers who were furloughed, laid off, or otherwise not working for the company for more than 30 days, the cost and logistical barriers of testing a large influx of drivers in a short timeframe are significant, at a time when the commercial trucking and motor coach industry is facing unprecedented economic challenges. This problem is further compounded by the reduced availability of controlled substance testing resources due to continued facility closures or other testing impediments caused by the COVID-19 public health emergency.”

CNS Collection Sites And Network Are Open For Drug Testing, Call 888.260.9448 to Schedule A Test Today

Employers must verify that the driver participated in the controlled substances testing specified and had no recorded violations of another DOT agency’s controlled substances use regulations within the previous 6 months. This requires a CDL Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse detailed query.

Also, each employer must notify FMCSA within 5 business days of an involving any driver operating under the terms of this waiver. For more information on accident reporting during the waiver, go to the FMCSA press release.

DOT Compliance Services

Simplify the entire physical, drug consortium and DQF process

Our complete Proactive Safety Management (PSM) program has been organized to get you through an FMCSA audit by managing your driver qualification files, drug consortium, Electronic Logging Devices (ELD), vehicle maintenance and more.

Whether you are a large trucking company that is onboarding drivers quickly or a construction outfit with multiple trucks in your fleet, you need to stay aware of FMCSA regulations.

For more information, contact us at 888.260.9448 or