Last updated: November 27, 2023
The Department of Transportation (DOT) published its final ruling authorizing the oral fluid test as an approved alternative to urine drug testing. If you employ a part of the safety-sensitive workforce, you may have been awaiting that news. However, there’s still a wrench to pull out of the works before it’s all systems go.
The final rule frees up employers to begin using the test, however, at this moment in time, there’s nowhere to send them to determine results.
In order for oral fluid drug testing to begin, there have to be two certified laboratories cleared to process oral fluid drug tests according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). A DOT spokesperson said, “As of the time of the publication of this final rule, there have been no laboratories yet certified by HHS for oral fluid testing.”
Laboratories haven’t rushed to become certified yet. However, now that the final ruling is out, laboratory certification won’t be far behind. We’ll keep you posted on the progress. In the meantime, if you plan to begin using the oral fluid test, you can take initial steps to prepare.
- Determining when and how oral fluid tests will become applicable to their DOT employees
- Completing policy revision
- Distributing copies of new policies to all employees
- Employee training
Provides advantages for employees
The urine drug test has been the only approved method of drug testing safety-sensitive employees since the administration’s inception in 1988. At first, the urine test was the only type of employee drug test on the market. Over the years, advancements in technology paved the way for other test methods to be invented. Namely, the oral fluid test and the hair follicle drug test, both have become well-established as reliable test methods.
The DOT determined that the newly approved test offers several benefits. They include a less time-consuming alternative to urine drug testing. Currently, employees are escorted to a restroom set up specifically for the drug test. The test is administered without ever being out of sight of the technician. It makes the oral fluid test easier to administer. Subsequently, it’s considered less invasive when compared to the specifics involved in a urine test.
Oral fluid testing will greatly benefit employees who suffer from shy bladder syndrome. Currently, employees who are unable to provide a urine sample when reporting for the drug test are required to remain on-site for up to three hours. During those three hours, the employee is free to try and provide a test specimen as often as possible. They may drink up to 40 ounces of fluid during that time. If at the end of the time frame, the employee is unable to provide a specimen, they are allowed to leave the testing facility.
Once the laboratory certification is completed, employees who are unable to provide a urine specimen may have the option of testing with the oral fluid method.
Benefits employers too
Employers who choose to use the oral fluid employee drug test will save money because the test is less costly than the urine test. Using the test also reduces the amount of time drivers are off the road to comply with drug testing requirements. In fact, the oral fluid test is so easy to administer, some employers are choosing to drug test on-site which completely eliminates travel time.
Moreover, the employee is never out of sight of the test technician making it impossible to tamper with the test.
DOT’s final rule addresses other changes
In addition to authorizing the use of oral fluid drug testing as an alternative testing method, the final rule also:
- harmonizes with the pertinent section of the HHS oral fluid Mandatory Guidelines,
- clarifies certain Part 40 provisions that cover urine drug testing procedures,
- removes provisions that are no longer necessary,
- adds eight new definitions, clarifying language to definitions and web links, and
- updates provisions to address issues that have risen in recent years.