DOT Drug Testing
HOW IS DRUG TESTING DONE?
Drug testing is conducted by analyzing a driver's urine specimen. The analysis is performed at laboratories certified and monitored by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The list of DHHS approved laboratories is published monthly in the Federal Register. The driver provides a urine specimen in a location that affords privacy and the "collector" seals and labels the specimen, completes a chain of custody document, and prepares the specimen and accompanying paperwork for shipment to a drug-testing laboratory. The specimen collection procedures and chain of custody ensure that the specimen's security; proper identification and integrity are not compromised. The Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act of 1991 requires that drug testing procedures for commercial motor vehicle drivers include split specimen procedures. Each urine specimen is subdivided into two bottles labeled as a "primary" and a "split" specimen. Both bottles are sent to a laboratory. Only the primary specimen is opened and used for the urinalysis. The split specimen bottle remains sealed and is stored at the laboratory. If the analysis of the primary specimen confirms the presence of illegal, controlled substances, the driver has 72 hours to request the split specimen be sent to another DHHS-certified laboratory for analysis. This split specimen procedure essentially provides the driver with an opportunity for a "second opinion".
WHAT DRUGS ARE TESTED FOR?
All urine specimens are analyzed for the following drugs:
Marijuana (THC metabolite)
Opiates (including heroin)
The testing is a two-stage process. First, a screening test is performed. If it is positive for one or more of the drugs, then a confirmation test is performed for each identified drug using state-of-the-art gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) analysis. GC/MS confirmation ensures that over-the-counter medications or preparations are not reported as positive results.
WHO REVIEWS AND INTERPRETS THE LABORATORY RESULTS?
All drug test results are reviewed and interpreted by a physician (Medical Review Officer (MRO)) before they are reported to the employer. If the laboratory reports a positive result to the MRO, the MRO contacts the driver (in person or by telephone) and conducts an interview to determine if there is an alternative medical explanation for the drugs found in the driver's urine specimen. If the driver provides appropriate documentation and the MRO determines that it is legitimate medical use of the prohibited drug, the drug test result is reported as negative to the employer.
WHAT DRUG USE IS PROHIBITED?
The drug rules prohibit any unauthorized use of the controlled substances. Illicit use of drugs by safety-sensitive drivers is prohibited on or off duty. The FMCSA has some additional rules that prohibit the use of legally prescribed controlled substances (such as barbiturates, amphetamines, morphine, etc.) by safety-sensitive drivers involved in interstate commerce.
WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES OF A POSITIVE DRUG TEST?
A driver must be removed from safety-sensitive duty if he/she has a positive drug test result. The removal cannot take place until the MRO has interviewed the driver and determined that the positive drug test resulted from the unauthorized use of a controlled substance. A driver cannot be returned to safety-sensitive duties until he/she has been evaluated by a substance abuse professional, has complied with recommended rehabilitation, and has a negative result on a return-to-duty drug test. Follow-up testing to monitor the driver's continued abstinence from drug use is also required.
HOW DOES RANDOM DRUG TESTING WORK?
Employers are responsible for conducting random, unannounced drug tests. The total number conducted each year must equal at least 50% of the safety-sensitive drivers. Some drivers may be tested more than once each year; some may not be tested at all depending on the random selection. Random testing for drugs does not have to be conducted in immediate time proximity to performing safety-sensitive functions. Once notified of selection for testing, however, a driver must proceed immediately to a collection site to accomplish the urine specimen collection.
ARE EMPLOYEE EDUCATION AND TRAINING REQUIRED?
Employers must provide information on drug use and treatment resources to safety-sensitive drivers. All supervisors and officials of businesses with safety-sensitive drivers must attend at least one hour of training on the signs and symptoms of drug abuse. This training is necessary to assist supervisors and company officials in making appropriate determinations for reasonable suspicion testing.
ARE DRIVER DRUG TESTING RECORDS CONFIDENTIAL?
Yes. Driver drug testing results and records are maintained under strict confidentiality by the employer, the drug-testing laboratory, and the medical review officer. They cannot be released to others without the written consent of the driver. Exceptions to these confidentiality provisions are limited to a decision maker in arbitration, litigation or administrative proceedings arising from a positive drug test. Statistical records and reports are maintained by employers and drug testing laboratories. This information is aggregated data and is used to monitor compliance with the rules and to assess the effectiveness of the drug testing programs.