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DOT Revises Drug and Alcohol Testing Requirements for Drivers and Other Safety Sensitive Employees

By Kathryn J. Russo and Paul J. Siegel
  • February 5, 2001

The U.S. Department of Transportation has issued new rules governing drug and alcohol testing for federally regulated transportation workers in safety sensitive positions. Portions of the new directives amend existing DOT rules and are currently in effect; the remainder revise the entire body of DOT testing regulations and become effective as of August 1, 2001.

The changes that became effective in January include more robust procedures to protect the integrity of the testing process. For example, the revised rules require that, in addition to confirmed positive drugs tests, specimens found by a laboratory to have been adulterated or substituted must be verified by a Medical Review Officer, and, in that event, employees must be afforded the opportunity of having a split specimen tested. In addition, DOT will institute a Public Interest Exclusion for drug and alcohol testing "service agents" who engage in "serious noncompliance" with the DOT regulations. Service agents subject to a PIE will be banned from participating in DOT-related drug testing for up to five years. Employers are prohibited from using a service agent who is subject to a PIE.

In addition to these changes, the revised rules now require split specimen urine collections and validity testing to assure that samples have not been adulterated or substituted. Other changes impact monitoring and testing procedures:

  • Post-violation testing for employees who return to safety-sensitive positions will "follow" employees from one job to another and persist through a break in service;
  • "Stand downs" - the practice of temporarily removing an employee from safety- sensitive duties upon learning of a confirmed positive drug test, but before the result has been verified by an MRO - are prohibited without a DOT waiver;
  • Employers will have the option of requiring employees who receive negative results to retake the test; and,
  • Employees who cannot produce a sample will be required to be examined by a physician who must find that a medical condition caused the inability, or the employee will be deemed to have refused a test.

The DOT also has incorporated an existing Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulation into the revised rule that all DOT-regulated employers must, after obtaining an employee's written consent, request certain drug and alcohol testing information from the employee's previous DOT-regulated employers for the two years prior to the employee's hire or transfer into a safety-sensitive position.

In light of these changes employers subject to a DOT operating authority should review their substance abuse and alcohol testing policies, as well as their relationships to service providers, to make sure they are in compliance with the DOT rules. The rules are available on the DOT website or on the Federal Register's website.

Editor's Note: Employers in every industry are concerned about minimizing the insurance costs, absenteeism, decreased productivity, and accidents resulting from substance abuse. Jackson Lewis attorneys can assist employers with reviewing existing substance abuse policies and with developing and implementing drug and alcohol testing programs that comply with federal, state and local substance abuse testing laws, including the DOT's regulations (covering employers in the motor carrier, aviation, mass transit, railway, and pipeline industries). We also counsel employers responding to violations of policy and to employee requests for accommodation for substance abuse related issues.

©2001 Jackson Lewis P.C. This material is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice nor does it create a client-lawyer relationship between Jackson Lewis and any recipient. Recipients should consult with counsel before taking any actions based on the information contained within this material. This material may be considered attorney advertising in some jurisdictions. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

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