Revised Rules on DOT Drug and Alcohol Testing Programs

In 2001, the United States Department of Transportation or US DOT announced rule changes for their alcohol and drug testing applied to all staff members working in safety-sensitive positions in the transport sectors. The revised rule, also known as 49 C.F.R. Part 40, addresses in full detail, procedures that need to be followed in alcohol and drug screening programs of the agency.

In 1988, the Department of Transportation first required screening of workers in positions considered safety-sensitive like aviation, rail, motor carrier, transit, pipeline, and maritime industries. Alcohol screening was later added to the list of requirements in 1994. The revised regulations a mandated split-specimen testing, require validity screening (to help detect substituted, diluted, or adulterated specimens), expand the mandated medical review verification, as well as a split-specimen exam to substituted and adulterated samples.

Check out this site for more information about drug screening.

It allows the department to exclude service agents like laboratories and clinics from regulated testing work and bar any employers form engaging service agents for this type of work and make other necessary changes. Since that time, regulations, following recent federal government requirements, are all in plain English, and question and answer format.

The test addresses the reader directly. They attempt to outline the obligations of every staff or individual in a certain situation. These guidelines have been published by the Department of Transportation to help explain the requirements of these rules.

Types of alcohol and drug screening

The kinds of alcohol and drug assessment required by the department remain, specifically, reasonable suspicion, pre-employment, post-accident, FAA-only-required periodic assessment, random, follow-up, and return-to-duty screening.

However, follow-up assessment now literally may follow the worker from one company to another and continue even during breaks in service. Not only that, substances that need to be tested will continue to be the popular ones or the H.H.S. Five. These include Cocaine, P.C.P or Phenycyclide, Opiates, Amphetamines, and Cannabis.

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Highlights of alcohol and drug assessment

The two categories of urine sample tampering are:

Sample adulterating – Putting substances into the specimen designed to help hide or even destroy drug components and metabolites that the sample may contain).

The sample substituted – Supplying substances like water in place of the urine sample to get a negative result.

Under the Department of Transportation’s rules and regulations, if there is a verified result that the worker’s initial alcohol or drug test was substituted or adulterated, that worker may request a screen of the split specimen. Traditionally, samples are divided into two containers – the first sample and the split or second sample.

It is usually not tested unless the subject disputes the verified positive result based on the first sample’s lab analysis. A second clinic or lab will analyze the split specimen. The worker will have the chance to present a legit medical explanation to the M.R.O. An M.R.O is a licensed doctor who is responsible for receiving, as well as reviewing lab results generated by the company’s drug and alcohol screening program. They are also responsible for evaluating medical explanations for specific analysis results.

“P.I.E.” or Public Interest Exclusion

Service agents are organizations and individuals that provide alcohol and drug screen services to workers, like Medical Review Officer, collectors, laboratories, clinics, drug and alcohol abuse professionals, breath alcohol techs, third-party and consortia administrators, and testing technicians.

Service agents will be responsible for serious non-compliance with the Department of Transportation alcohol and illegal substance screening rule. The revision of regulations will allow the department, after following procedures, to impose a P.I.E or Public Interest Exclusions on the offending agent.

Public Interest Exclusions would direct workers under the Department of Transportation to not use service agents, for the time being, five years at most. Agents can apply for relief from the Public Interest Exclusions after nine months.

Split-sample collection

All samples collected are required to be split-sample collections. Workers may request this type of test within three days from when they are notified of a refusal to screen because of substitution or adulteration, or a verified positive result. Workers need to assure that this type of test may be conducted after a proper request requirement was achieved.

Compliance of the screening may not be deducted for the worker’s direct payment to the M.R.O or laboratory or the company’s agreement to pay the full or half of the split sample’s cost. The company may ask for reimbursement of part of the test’s total costs from the worker under the organization policy or a C.B.A (collective bargaining agreement). Still, DOT drug testing programs will take no position on who will pay for the process.

Validity assessment

Validity assessment becomes mandatory. It is a screening conducted by clinics or labs to detect and deter tampering with the illegal substance test. The department will require labs to test all primary samples for dilution, adulteration, and substitution. The DHHS or Department of Health and Human Services has developed the guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Screening Programs

Prohibition of stand-downs, unless D.O.T permits waivers

D.O.T still prohibits Stand-downs. It refers to the company practice of temporarily terminating a staff from performing safety-sensitive tasks like driving and related operations upon learning that the person had a confirmed positive illegal substance result from the laboratory or clinic, but before the Medical Review Officer has completed the confirmation process.

During the confirmation process, the Medical Review Officer attempts to work with the company, whether there is a legitimate reason that explains the verified, positive test result. The revised rule and regulation will set a waiver mechanism. The company may seek the department operating authority approval for a written stand-down scheme that authorizes a stand-down order and protects the workers’ interest.


The summary mentioned above is only some of the more significant contingency for the alcohol and drug assessment rule for companies regulated by D.O.T. Organizations subjected to the department operating authority need to know these provisions and regulations. They need to review their policies and their relationships to laboratories and clinics to ensure that they comply with the department rules’ changes.