Just entering the transportation industry? Performing tasks defined by the US Department of Transportation (DOT) as safety-sensitive, such as working on pipelines, driving a truck, operating a ferry, steering a train or repairing an airplane? Then, you are subject to DOT workplace drug & alcohol testing. Here are the basics you need to know about DOT’s program.
Who is subject to DOT testing?
Anyone designated in DOT regulations as a safety-sensitive employee is subject to DOT drug & alcohol testing. What follows is an overview of what
jobs are defined as safety-sensitive functions subject to testing.
Flight crews, flight attendants, flight instructors, air traffic controllers at facilities not operated by the FAA or under contract to the U.S. military, aircraft dispatchers, aircraft maintenance or preventative maintenance personnel, ground security coordinators and aviation screeners. Direct or contract employees of I4 CFR Part 121 or 135 certificate holders, Section 91.147 operators and air traffic control facilities not operated by the FAA or under contract to the US Military. See FAA regulations at 14 CFR Part 121 Appendices I & J.
Commercial Motor Carriers FMCSA
Commercial Drivers License (CDL) holders who operate Commercial Motor Vehicles, 26,001 lbs. gvwr. or greater, or operate a vehicle that carries 16 passengers or more including the driver, or required to display a DOT placard in the transportation of hazardous material.See FMCSA regulation at 49 CFR Part 382.
Crewmembers operating a commercial vessel.See USCG regulations at 46 CFR Parts 4 & 16.
Operations, maintenance and emergency response.See PHMSA regulations at 49 CFR Part 199.
Hours of Service Act personnel, engine & train, signal service or train dispatchers. See FRA regulations at 49 CFR Part 219.
Vehicle operators, controllers, mechanics and armed security.See FTA regulations at 49 CFR Part 655.
Remember: The tasks you actually perform qualify you as a safety-sensitive employee, not your job title. Also, some employees, like managers and
supervisors, may be qualified for these jobs but not currently performing them. Do they have to be tested as well? In most cases, yes…if that
employee may be asked at a moment’s notice or in an emergency to perform a safety-sensitive job. Be sure to check industry specific regulations
for further clarification.
Why are safety-sensitive employees tested?
The short answer is for the safety of the traveling public, co-workers and yourself. The longer answer is that the United States Congress recognized the need for a drug and alcohol free transportation industry, and in 1991 passed the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act, requiring DOT Agencies to implement drug & alcohol testing of safety-sensitive transportation employees.
Within DOT, the Office of the Secretary’s Office of Drug & Alcohol Policy & Compliance (ODAPC) publishes rules on how to conduct those tests, what
procedures to use when testing and how to return an employee to safety sensitive duties. Encompassed in 49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 40, ODAPC publishes and provides authoritative interpretations of these rules.
DOT agencies and the U.S. Coast Guard write industry specific regulations, spelling out who is subject to testing, when and in what situations. Industry employers implement the regulations that apply to them. The benefit to all employees affected by DOT regulations is that each agency’s
regulations must adhere to DOT’s testing procedures found at 49 CFR Part 40, commonly know as “Part 40.” For example, you may work in the rail industry and later work in the motor carrier industry, but the procedures for collecting, testing and reporting of your tests will be the same under Part 40.
What information must employers provide when I first begin performing DOT safety-sensitive functions?
Depending on the DOT agency over-seeing your industry, your employer may be required to provide you with educational materials and a company policy that explain the requirements of DOT’s drug & alcohol testing regulations and the procedures to help you comply. If you have not received this information, be sure to ask your employer about it.
What conduct is prohibited by the regulations?
As a safety-sensitive employee…
• You must not use or possess alcohol or any illicit drug while assigned to perform safety-sensitive functions or actually performing safety-sensitive
• You must not report for service, or remain on duty if you…
– Are under the influence or impaired by alcohol;
– Have a blood alcohol concentration .04 or greater; (with a blood alcohol concentration of .02 to .039, some regulations do not permit you to
continue working until your next regularly scheduled duty period);
– Have used any illicit drug.
• You must not use alcohol within four hours (8 hours for flight crew members and flight attendants) of reporting for service or after receiving notice to report.
• You must not report for duty or remain on duty when using any controlled substance unless used pursuant to the instructions of an authorized medical practitioner.
• You must not refuse to submit to any test for alcohol or controlled substances.
• You must not refuse to submit to any test by adulterating or substituting your specimen.
What drugs does DOT test for?
DOT drug tests are conducted only using urine specimens. The urine specimens are analyzed for the following drugs/metabolites:
• Marijuana metabolites /THC
• Cocaine metabolites
• Amphetamines (including methamphetamine)
• Opiates (including codeine, heroin, morphine)
• Phencyclidine (PCP)
Can I use prescribed medications & over-the-counter (OTC) drugs and perform safety-sensitive functions?
Prescription medicine and OTC drugs may be allowed. However, you must meet the following minimum standards:
• The medicine is prescribed to you by a licensed physician, such as your personal doctor.
• The treating/prescribing physician has made a good faith judgment that the use of the substance at the prescribed or authorized dosage level is
consistent with the safe performance of your duties.
Best Practice: To assist your doctor in prescribing the best possible treatment, consider providing your physician with a detailed description of
your job. A title alone may not be sufficient. Many employers give employees a written, detailed description of their job functions to provide
their doctors at the time of the exam.
• The substance is used at the dosage prescribed or authorized.
• If you are being treated by more than one physician, you must show that at least one of the treating doctors has been informed of all prescribed and authorized medications and has determined that the use of the medications is consistent with the safe performance of your duties.
• Taking the prescription medication and performing your DOT safety-sensitive functions is not prohibited by agency drug and alcohol regulations. However, other DOT agency regulations may have prohibitive provisions, such as medical certifications.
Remember: Some agencies have regulations prohibiting use of specific prescription drugs, e.g. methadone, etc…. If you are using prescription or
over-the-counter medication, check first with a physician, but do not forget to consult your industry-specific regulations before deciding to perform safety-sensitive tasks. Also be sure to refer to your company’s policy regarding prescription drugs.