Federal agencies Drugs Transportation Transportation

DOT to include oral fluid option as alternative drug-testing method

Drug collection test
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Washington — The Department of Transportation has approved oral fluid drug testing as an alternative to urine testing for truck drivers and workers in other safety-sensitive transportation positions.

According to a final rule published in the May 2 Federal Register and set to go into effect June 1, workers regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Railroad Administration and Federal Transit Administration can provide oral fluid specimens as part of their employer drug testing programs.

However, an employer only can implement oral fluid testing once the Department of Health and Human Services has certified at least two laboratories for such testing – and “HHS has not yet certified any laboratories to conduct oral fluid testing,” the rule states.

DOT says oral fluid testing “will give 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 transportation industry’s drug and alcohol testing program.

The rulemaking clarifies that DOT isn’t proposing to phase out urine drug testing.

“HHS has determined oral fluid drug testing, like urine drug testing, is accurate and defensible,” DOT says. “With both drug testing methodologies being scientifically accurate and forensically defensible, there is no reason to eliminate either methodology. Similarly, we see no reason to mandate either methodology.”

The rule stems from an HHS final rule – in effect since Jan. 1, 2020 – allowing federal agencies to use oral fluid testing in their drug-testing program. Agencies must initiate individual rulemaking to begin the process of allowing oral fluid testing as an option.

DOT previously gathered public comment on a proposal. In the proposed rule, DOT indicated that HHS was still considering amendments to guidelines proposed in September 2020 concerning the use of hair samples as a method for drug testing federal employees and safety-sensitive employees in federally regulated industries.

“Hair testing is outside the scope of this rulemaking,” DOT says in the final rule.

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