DOT Drug Test
The Department of Transportation drug test, more commonly known as the DOT drug test, is a government-regulated drug test. The United States Congress passed the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act in 1991 to ensure the alcohol- and drug-free transportation industry.
As per the Act, the Department of Transportation agencies must implement alcohol and drug tests for safety-sensitive employees so that workers and the traveling public are safe. In addition, the U.S Coast Guard and DOT agencies have several specifications when it comes to DOT drug testing regulations, which have been discussed in the subsequent sections.
Who is Subject to DOT Drug Test?
People designated as safety-sensitive employees per the DOT regulations are required to get DOT drug and alcohol tests. This means the person is required to get a drug test as they hold a job that can impact their safety and that of the public. Some of the DOT departments with safety-sensitive job positions are as follows-
- Flight crew, aircraft dispatchers, flight attendants, and ground security coordinators in the Federal Aviation Administration.
- Those who hold a commercial driver’s license (CDL) and operate commercial motor vehicles (CMV) or vehicles carrying 16 or more passengers, and vehicles that are used for the transportation of hazardous materials.
- Crew members belong to the U.S Coast Guard, which operates commercial vessels.
- Operations, maintenance, and emergency response workers from the pipeline and hazardous materials safety administration.
- Vehicle operators, armed security, and controllers working for the Federal Transit Administration.
What Substance Does DOT Test For?
DOT drug tests comprise testing of marijuana metabolites or THC, amphetamines (both MDMA and methamphetamine), opioids (heroin, morphine, codeine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, hydromorphone, and oxymorphone), phencyclidine, and cocaine metabolites. The same 5-panel test is used by all DOT drug tests.
What Tests are Used for DOT Testing?
Urine collection and testing are exclusively used for DOT testing to determine the presence of any drug. Further, the presence of alcohol is detected using breath and saliva. Therefore, DOT testing involves non-intrusive testing methods.
When are DOT Tests Conducted?
DOT tests are conducted for safety-sensitive employees in certain situations, which are as follows:
- Pre-Employment – Candidates are tested before being employed or before taking on their job responsibilities.
- Reasonable Suspicion or Cause – When a trained supervisor has any suspicion, which leads them to reasonably believe that an employee is under the influence of a drug, they may conduct DOT tests. However, the suspicion must be based on certain observations, such as behavior, appearance, speech, and smell.
- Random Testing – Random testing is conducted to test employees randomly for the use of drugs. However, when conducting a random test, it is mandatory to ensure that the employees to be tested are randomly selected, which means each employee should have an equal probability of being selected and tested. Such tests are conducted on a quarterly basis.
- Follow-up Testing – When an employee returns to duty, follow-up tests are conducted. For this purpose, a Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) is appointed to manage the follow-up testing for up to five years. The SAP is also responsible for finding out the number of times an employee is tested for a specific substance. In addition, to follow—up testing, another DOT-required testing may be conducted.
- Post-Accident Testing – When an employee is involved in an accident, they may be required to be tested based on certain DOT criteria. Some of these criteria include testing employees for alcohol within 8 hours of the accident and conducting a drug test within 32 hours of the accident.
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What are the Requirements for DOT Testing?
The DOT has a decision tree that assists employers when determining whether they are covered by the DOT’s drug and alcohol testing requirements. The Act makes it mandatory to test candidates and employees under conditions such as pre-employment, post-accident, reasonable suspicion, follow-up or return-to-duty, etc. The following are the circumstance under which employees covered by the Act are supposed to be tested:
- When an employee is assigned a position that requires a CDL
- After an accident due to which an employee receives a citation for a moving vehicle violation or results in a fatality
- For reasonable suspicion based on the observation of appearance or behavior
- Before returning to a position the employee used to cover, after being tested positive for alcohol or drug abuse
- On a random basis
Prohibitions by DOT Regulations
The main objective of conducting DOT drug tests is to ensure that safety-sensitive employees abstain from consuming alcohol and drugs when they are at work. As already mentioned, this is crucial to ensure the safety of the employee undertaking the job and the public. In addition to these tests, a range of behaviors are prohibited as per the DOT regulations. Under certain circumstances, safety-sensitive employees cannot report to duty. These circumstances are as follows-
- Under the Influence – When an employee has a blood alcohol level concentration equal to or exceeding 0.04, they will not be allowed to perform their duties. Keeping this in mind, employees are instructed not to use alcohol within 4 hours of reporting for their services. However, this time is extended to 8 hours for flight attendants and crew members.
- Drug Use – When employees have used a controlled substance, such as illicit drugs, they may not be allowed to report for duty or stay on duty. However, certain controlled substances may be allowed under the condition that such substances are prescribed by a medical professional.
- Refusing a Test – Employees refusing to get tested for drugs and alcohol will be dismissed from their duty. Further, employees interfering in the process of testing or with a collected specimen may also face consequences.
DOT screening regulations have been carefully decided to ensure the safety of individuals undertaking specific high-risk responsibilities, which may also have fatal consequences for the public when mishandled or not performed with care. Since alcohol consumption and drugs are one of the top reasons that may result in accidents and mishaps, every safety-sensitive employee must be subject to drug tests as per the DOT drug testing regulations.