DOT Drug Testing: 5 Things You Need to Know

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Dot drug testing

DOT drug testing is a drug test conducted by the department of transportation (DOT) in the U.S. to ensure a drug-free transportation industry. It is a fundamental hiring process that aims to provide every traveling worker safety. Drug use has become so common, and it’s crucial to conduct DOT drug testing to prevent accident risks.

Search for drug testing near me or visit Title 49 of the CFR (Code of Federal regulation) part 40 to find your industry’s rules and procedures for DOT drug testing. 

DOT agencies write regulations for different industries explaining who requires a test, when and under which circumstances. Employers then follow and implement specific rules that apply to their industry.

DOT drug testing applies to pilots, truck drivers, PSV drivers, ship captains, airline mechanics, subway operators, etc.  Drug testing has helped the transportation industry to reduce alcohol and drug-based crashes and accidents. Although, other safety-sensitive employees continue to use drugs and alcohol despite the efforts to prevent them from doing so.

On that note, employees and supervisors get educated on the consequences of alcohol and drug misuse in the industry. Employers should also not hesitate to remove employees who violate drug and alcohol testing rules. These rule-breakers should not be returned to their duties until they prove to comply with the treatment they receive.

Who is Subjected to the DOT Drug Tests?

Any employee regarded as safety-sensitive should undergo DOT drug and alcohol testing. A safety-sensitive employee is anyone whose designation at work can, in one way or the other, impact his safety and that of the public as well.

Here are the transportation industries that are required to get DOT drug testing below:

  • Commercial Motor Carriers – Anyone operating a commercial motor vehicle and holds a commercial driver’s license (CDL). They are covered under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)
  • Aviation – Flight attendants, flight crew, air traffic controllers, flight instructors, aircraft dispatchers, aircraft maintenance personnel, aviation screeners, and ground security. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) takes care of them.
  • Railroad – Trainmen, locomotive engineers, switchmen, locomotive helpers, conductors, utility employees, signalmen, train operators, train dispatchers. They are covered under the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)
  • Pipeline – operation officers, maintenance crew, and employees who work under the emergency response function. They are covered under the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).
  • Public transportation – revenue service vehicles operators, CDL holders for non-revenues service vehicles, vehicle controllers, fire armed security personnel, mechanics. They are covered under the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).
  • Maritime – Commercial vessel operating crew. The U.S. coast guard (USCG) takes care of them.

 Substances Tested Under DOT Drug Testing

  1. Cocaine
  2. Marijuana
  3. Amphetamines and methamphetamines
  4. Phencyclidine – PCP
  5. Opiates metabolites- Includes the derivatives of opium, Morphine, Heroin, and codeine
  6. Alcohol – DOT tests for alcohol checks for 0.02 and more of alcohol concentration

Drug and Alcohol Testing Requirements

All DOT drug tests use urine samples as the only specimen. For alcohol tests, the lab technicians use either breath or saliva.

On top of the urine specimen for drug testing, FRA also requires blood samples for its post-accident testing. USCG also allows the collection of blood specimens for its serious marine incidents testing (SMI).

Urine tests are only conducted in labs approved and certified by HHS.

Types of Tests Conducted

Employers must give employees the following test as instructed by DOT and USCG rules:

  1. Pre-employment drug test – Conduct this test on employees and receive a negative report before hiring them. This test should also be administered to employees who are transferring from another position to a safety-sensitive one. Additionally, when a supervisor in charge notices some behavioral, appearance, and performance changes that he suspects could be caused by drug and alcohol use, this calls for DOT drug testing.
  2. Pre-employment alcohol test – This test must be done to all applicants and transfers, and it should be done after the offer is granted to the employees. If the employee passes the DOT alcohol test, he/she secures the job.
  3. Random tests – Random tests are an element of surprise. Therefore, they are very crucial in any industry because they prevent employees fromdrug and alcohol misuse. Different DOT agencies set their rules for random tests for the industries they regulate.
  4.  Employees are aware of this test, but none is sure when it will be carried out. Random tests are mostly carried out quarterly, but employers can do it as frequently as they like.
  5.  Reasonable suspicion or cause – If a company official reasonably suspects that an employee is under the influence of drugs and alcohol or perhaps both, the test is required. It is important to note that the suspicion must be based on the company official’s observations and not on other employees’ complaints, phone calls, or guesswork. A well-trained supervisor should recognize signs and symptoms associated with drug and alcohol use/misuse.Post-Accident – The responsible company officials should be aware of the post-accident testing criteria and time frames. If the test cannot be carried out within the required time, the supervisor should document the reasons. If the employee under question needs medical assistance, they should get it before the test is conducted.
  6. Return to duty and Follow-up – An employee who tests positive refuses to be tested or violates rules set by DOT should not return to safety-sensitive positions until they complete Substance Abuse Professionals (SAP) requirements. Before their return, a return-to-duty test must be done, and results must turn out negative.

The employer should establish a follow-up testing plan according to SAP’s rules and regulations. 

Consequences for Failing to do DOT Drug and Alcohol Tests

The employer should immediately remove an employee who refuses to take the tests from safety-sensitive positions. They are a threat to both personal and public safety.

Wrapping Up

Different DOT agencies regulate various industries. An employer and employee should familiarize themselves with DOT regulations for the industry they belong to. 

As an employer, ensure best practice procedures are in place to ensure that the employee reports directly to the collection site. 

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