The Department of Transportation on Monday, May 1st, filed a Final Rule to allow oral fluid as an authorized testing method for the presence of unlawful drugs. The 227-page final rule is scheduled for publication May 2nd and will become effective June 1st.
In order for this new DOT regulation to be implemented, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will need to certify at least two labs for oral fluid testing. This has yet to be completed, but by clearing the regulation the DOT will be allowed oral tests as soon has HHS makes the proper certifications.The DOT amended the industry's drug testing program to help combat employee cheating on urine drug tests and to provide a less intrusive manner of achieving the same safety goals.
Prior to Monday's issuing of the Final Rule, urinalysis and blood analysis (in limited circumstances) were the only acceptable means to conduct DOT drug screenings.
The oral fluid drug tests, minimizes the risk for cheating as the test is administered face-to-face and a swab from inside the cheek of the testee. 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." Oral testing is also cheaper than the standard urine test, estimated $15 cheaper per test, and by allowing the option to employers they can choose the test to best fit the scenario.
Oral fluid testing gives a narrower detection window, which gives companies a better chance of detecting recent drug use or frequent drug use. Employers need to work with their testing services to determine the kind of test to be used to best fit the situation, their drug and alcohol program, and the context of the test.
As of January 1, 2022, 81,052 professional drivers were in Prohibited Status with the FMCSA's Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse because of a violation. A year later that number reached 120,345. Positive tests for drivers continues to rise at an extreme rate. With those numbers going up, the industry needs to act fast to ensure safety among their fleets.
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