U.S. DOT Drug and Alcohol Testing Program Changes

October 22, 2019

The U.S. Department of Transportation (“DOT”) recently published several changes to its drug and alcohol testing program.  The DOT published this final rule (82 FR 52229) on November 13, 2017, and made it effective Jan. 1, 2018.  These changes potentially impact municipalities who have DOT-compliant drug and alcohol testing programs for employees with CDL licenses or who work in safety-sensitive jobs where drug and alcohol use is closely monitored.

  1. The changes are not drastic, but depending upon your municipality’s testing program, there may be a few changes necessary.  Below is a brief summary of the rule changes: The standard five-panel drug test will now include testing for several opioids that are typically only obtained with a prescription.  If a municipality’s drug testing policy only narrowly states that opiates will be tested for, it may want to consider changing the word to opioids.  Feel free to contact our office if you want us to review your municipality’s drug testing policy regarding this wording change.
  2. Because the new rules include testing for substances often prescribed by a physician, any positive test will prompt the employee to have the opportunity to provide the facility with a prescription and/or doctor verification of a medical need.  If an employee is able to produce such documentation, the employer municipalities will not be notified of the presence of the drug (for health privacy reasons), but will simply be informed that the employee passed the drug test.
  3. One additional rule change that may affect a few municipalities pertains to employers submitting “blind specimens”, which is a urine sample submitted for quality control purposes.  Blind specimens are no longer required. We suggest municipalities review their testing policy to see if they included language about blind specimens and if so, the policy should be amended.  Feel free to contact our office if you want us to review your municipality’s drug testing policy regarding blind specimens.
  4. Although not a new rule, DOT re-emphasized that all DOT drug and alcohol testing must take place in a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services certified laboratory.  It is likely your municipality is already in compliance with this requirement, but we recommend you inquire of your testing facility to determine that it is an HHS certified lab.


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