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The Department of Transportation is proposing to add new drug testing guidelines that would allow motor carriers to test truckers using oral fluid samples as an alternative to urine testing.
“This will give employers a choice that will help combat employee cheating on urine drug tests and provide a more economical and less intrusive way to achieve program safety goals,” the DOT said. on February 25 in a 119-page federal pre-publication. Registration announcement. “Unlike directly observed urine samples, a mouth fluid sample is much less intrusive to the privacy of the employee being tested.”
The proposal also updates other provisions of the DOT drug testing regulations and seeks to “harmonize” mandatory oral fluid testing guidelines established in 2020 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources. Social services, according to the ad.
The proposal does not address testing for excessive alcohol consumption.
The agency did not say when the proposal might be effective, but said it was accepting public comment on its proposal for 30 days. “Specifically, we are seeking comment on whether there are any circumstances in which urine or oral fluid should be required,” the DOT said.
“By offering saliva testing, the department offers an alternative specimen for drug testing; however, we are not proposing to eliminate urine drug testing.
“We are pleased that the DOT is proposing the inclusion of oral fluids as an approved test method for DOT purposes,” said Dan Horvath, vice president of safety policy for the American Trucking Associations. “ATA has long advocated for its inclusion, and today’s advisory is another step closer to achieving it.”
Horvath added that the ATA’s security team is reviewing the proposal and will work with its security policy committee to comment on the most appropriate situations for oral fluid testing.
The proposal notes that if an employer seeks to detect recent drug use in the event of reasonable cause or suspicion of drug use by an employee, or in the event of post-accident testing, an employer may find that the detection window more immediate associated with oral liquid is acceptable.
“However, if an employer is seeking to detect a pattern of intermittent drug use through pre-employment, random, return-to-work, or follow-up testing, delayed detection windows in urine may be preferable” , the DOT said.
The DOT said that when an employer determines that post-accident testing or reasonable cause testing is necessary, oral fluid samples may be taken at the scene of the accident or incident. Collection may be performed by any federally qualified oral fluid collector – either an outside contractor or an employee of a DOT-regulated company.
Additionally, a mouth fluid test may be an option in cases where urine collection events involve an employee’s failure to provide a sufficient sample, the agency said.
The DOT also noted that oral fluid tests are generally less expensive than urine tests. “We understand that an oral fluid test can cost between $10 and $20 less than a urine test,” the DOT said. The proposal estimated that the overall urine test process typically costs $50, compared to about $35 for an oral test.
The DOT—along with aviation, railroad, and transit agencies—are required by the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act of 1991 to incorporate the HHS testing mandate for sensitive employees. safety, a category that includes truck drivers.
“While the DOT has discretion regarding many aspects of its regulations governing testing in the transportation industries’ regulated programs, the agency follows mandatory HHS guidelines for laboratory and sample testing procedures,” says proposal.
“Oral fluid collection is less invasive than directly observed urine collection and, therefore, is consistent with the careful balance between an individual’s right to privacy and the department’s keen interest in maintaining safety. transportation by deterring the use of illicit drugs.”
A 2019 federal appeals court ruling upheld DOT’s enhanced direct observation procedures to prevent the use of prosthetics used to cheat and to expand direct observation to testing people who had previously violated the rules, including return-to-work and follow-up testing for people who had tested positive or refused to be tested.
The proposal noted that on September 10, 2020, HHS issued a notice of proposed mandatory guidelines to add hair tests to drug screening sample types. However, he offered no information on when HHS might issue a final rule on hair testing.