Federal Update
Feds tighten up drug-testing policies

By Jami Jones
senior editor


Beating a DOT drug test is getting a lot tougher because of a new final rule issued by the Department of Transportation.

The rule was issued in late June, less than a month after the Government Accountability Office released a report calling for improvements to the DOT’s drug testing program.

The report stated that although thousands of carriers are reviewed each year, the reviews touch only about 2 percent of the industry. As a result, carriers have limited incentives to follow the regulations.

In addition to a lack of incentive to follow the regs, the report stated that the system is pretty easy to beat. The GAO laid blame for drivers beating the tests on the drug testing sites.

The final rule takes aim at CDL holders who attempt to defeat drug tests with substances or substitutes that will hide positive results. The new regulation goes into effect Aug. 25.

The final rule makes it mandatory for labs to test all DOT specimens for validity – to make sure the samples aren’t tainted or contain urine substitutes. The labs must follow specific federally mandated guidelines when testing for tainted samples.

The revised regulation also gives labs the green light to observe the collection of samples if an employee is suspected of trying to alter the sample. If an employee does test positive and is going through the return-to-duty process or a follow-up drug test, labs are now required to observe collection of the sample.

The new reg also requires labs to take down the “easy to read” posters that outline the list of different substances that alter test results the lab will be testing for.

If somehow a test is altered, it will now be considered a “refusal to test.”

The process for CDL holders who may have a legitimate medical reason – for example, those on a regular regimen of medication prescribed by a doctor – will also change. They will now be required to get a medical evaluation to rule out signs and symptoms of drug abuse before being given a free pass on a positive test result. LL