DOT to Expand Drug Testing Options

On Monday, the Department of Transportation (DOT) filed a Final Rule that would allow oral fluid as an authorized testing method for the presence of unlawful drugs. The rule is a total of 227 pages and would become effective in June. The DOT says 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”.

But under the DOT’s regulation, there are strict requirements that an employer must follow in order to implement fluid testing. One being the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will need to certify at least two labs for the oral testing. As of today this has yet to be done. So even though the DOT cleared the regulatory hurdle, the HHS must make these certifications before it can be authorized.

Back in February the DOT proposed amending the transportation industry’s drug testing program to provide an alternative in lieu of urine testing. The goal was to provide “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.” This new measure is key due to the number of drivers being flagged for drug infractions continuing to increase at rapid pace.

As of January 1 last year, 81,052 professional drivers were in Prohibited Status with 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. 

Because oral tests are administered face to face (usually with the sample collector swabbing the inside of the cheek of an applicant) it will likely mitigate cheating. 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.”

Benefits of Oral Fluid Testing compared to Traditional Urine Test

Oral fluid testing, also known as saliva testing, is becoming increasingly popular as a drug testing method in the trucking industry. There are several reasons why this type of testing is beneficial:

  • Non-invasive: Oral fluid testing is non-invasive, which means that it is less intrusive than other types of drug testing. This can help to reduce discomfort and increase compliance among drivers.
  • Quick results: Saliva tests can provide results within minutes, which is important in a time-sensitive industry like trucking. This can help to identify any drivers who may be impaired and remove them from the road quickly.
  • Easy to administer: Oral fluid testing is relatively easy to administer, and it does not require specialized training or equipment. This makes it a cost-effective option for trucking companies.
  • Detects recent drug use: Saliva testing can detect drug use that has occurred within the past few hours, which is important for identifying drivers who may be impaired on the job.
  • Widely accepted: Oral fluid testing is a widely accepted drug testing method in the trucking industry, and it is recognized by the Department of Transportation (DOT) as a valid testing method.

Overall, oral fluid testing is a valuable tool for drug testing in the trucking industry because it is non-invasive, provides quick results, and is easy to administer. It can help to identify impaired drivers and ensure that they are removed from the road to improve safety for everyone.

“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.”

The Department of Transportation

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