DOT Drug & Alcohol Testing

DOT Drug & Alcohol Testing

Employers, are your employees subject to Department of Transportation (DOT) drug and alcohol testing regulations? If so, does your program address and meet compliance in these areas:

  • DOT Program Implementation and Regulations
  • Identifying Employees Needing to Be Tested
  • Program Policies and Assigning Responsibilities
  • Selecting Service Agents and Their Roles
  • Employee and Supervisor Education and Training
  • Drug and Alcohol Testing Requirements
  • Employer Actions When Employees Violate the Rules
  • Record Keeping and Data Collection Requirements
  • Program Compliance and Inspections/Audits
  • Collection Site Security and Integrity
  • Post-Accident Testing Criteria
  • Prior Testing History/Release of Information

DOT specifications on employee drug and alcohol testing are spelled out in 49 CFR Part 40 regulations. It is important to note that the Department of Transportation is a large entity with many agencies operating within it, each with their own set of applicable regulations, or designated parts within the 49 CFR. Among them are:

  • Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)- 49 CFR Part 382 (Motor carriers)
  • Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)- 14 CFR Part 120 (Air carriers or operators and certain contract air traffic control towers)
  • Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)- 49 CFR Part 219 (Rail workers)
  • Federal Transit Administration (FTA)- 49 CFR Part 655 (Public transportation workers)
  • Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA)- 49 CFR Part 199 (Operators of pipeline facilities and contractors performing covered functions for the operator)
  • US Coast Guard/Homeland Security (USCG)- 46 CFR Parts 4 & 16 (Maritime workers)

It is important to note that not all employees of these industries fall under drug and alcohol testing requirements, rather only those with safety sensitive duties. For example, an employee that holds a Commercial Driver License (CDL) and operates a commercial vehicle such as a trailer truck.

Key Program Roles- DOT drug and alcohol program requirements are very robust, and employers need to follow strict guidelines in order for the comprehensive program to meet DOT compliance. The program must be written and available to all covered employees. The program must also identify and include key roles. Among them are:

  •          Breath Alcohol Technician (BAT)
  •          Designated Employer Representative (DER)
  •          Medical Review Officer (MRO)
  •          Screening Test Technician (STT)
  •          Substance Abuse Professional (SAP)

Company Authority Programs- Many employers have established their own company program and associated policies for drug and alcohol testing, which are known as company authority programs. These programs can be in accordance with state/local requirements as well as a contractual mandate. Company authority programs can also go beyond DOT requirements in terms of what substances can be tested for, how the specimens are collected, and how often testing is done. Regardless of what elements your company authority program contains, it must be kept separate from an official DOT program, including applicable documentation and records.  

In house or outsourced DOT program? Employers have three general ways to run their DOT drug and alcohol testing program:

  •   Option 1: Administer the program internally. You would have on your own staff urine specimen collectors and Screening Test Technicians (STTs) / BATs, MROs, and Substance Abuse Professionals (SAPs), and support staff to run the program. The testing laboratory would be the only part of your program outside your own organization.
  •   Option 2: Outsource some of the program functions to qualified Service Agents. For example, you could have your own MRO and SAP but contract with urine specimen collectors and STTs / BATs to perform the collections, while keeping a support staff to run the program.
  •   Option 3: Outsource all of the program’s functions to a vendor, called a “consortium” or a “third-party administrator” (C/TPA), with only a DER and the DER’s support staff, if any, remaining in-house.

Employers are bound to have many questions about whether or not they require an official DOT drug and alcohol testing program, or if their current program meets compliance. Employees might have questions about topics such as how a positive test would affect their employment what happens if they refuse to take a test, and what kind of impact could there be from prescription medication. A great resource tool to get these questions and more answered is the Department of Transportation’s Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy and Compliance (ODAPC) website:

COVID-19 and testing. The COVID-19 pandemic has created additional questions about drug and alcohol testing. The DOT has published a COVID-19 program guidance page on their website. Employers are encouraged to review this information at:

Finally, there are some go to DOT publications that both employers and employees are encouraged to reference when developing their drug and alcohol testing program. They include:

  •          Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy and Compliance (ODAPC), What Employers Need To Know About DOT Drug and Alcohol Testing (Guidance and Best Practices)- Employer Handbook 
  •          Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy and Compliance (ODAPC), What Employers Need To Know About DOT Drug and Alcohol Testing (Guidance and Best Practices)- Employee Handbook