Last updated: November 27, 2023
Yes, you read the title correctly. The Department of Transportation (DOT) is proposing changes to its drug testing policy. What will those changes entail?
The news broke over a year ago that the Department of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) had approved the mouth swab drug test as an alternative to the urine drug test. However, it’s up to each individual entity whether or not to include mouth swab testing in its drug testing policy.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) is ready to embrace the change. Proposed changes to its drug testing policy to include mouth swab testing were published on Monday, February 28th. It will take a while to go over the entire document—it’s 120 pages long.
We’ll hit the high points for you.
What’s the point?
The proposal is aimed at saving employers in the trucking industry time and money because the mouth swab test is completed in minutes getting the driver back out on the road in the least amount of time.
However, some regulatory experts believe rewriting the DOT drug testing policy to include oral fluid drug testing, if approved, will prove less effective for cracking down on drivers who are habitual drug users. The DOT sees the changes in another light, stating in its proposal, “The department believes that this proposed rule is needed because it makes several improvements in the integrity and effectiveness of an important safety program, as well as potentially reducing some costs to regulated parties.”
The reasons that they listed to substantiate the statement included:
- Enhanced flexibility
- Time and cost savings
- Increased versatility in employee drug detection
Let’s take a closer look at them.
Allowing the mouth swab, otherwise known as the oral fluid, drug test as an accepted DOT drug testing method gives employers more flexibility. The test won’t replace the urine drug test but allows for an alternative testing method.
It probably isn’t an issue very often, but for those who suffer from shy bladder syndrome, it will be a very welcome change.
Paruresis is the medical term given to a condition that makes it difficult for—and completely prevents some—people from urinating in public places. As a matter of fact, global statistics show that approximately 7% of the population is affected by paruresis.
Time and cost savings
The urine drug test requires a restroom facility that has been prepared for the test subject. Water sources must be turned off. The toilet itself is readied by adding a blue substance to the water to make it unusable for anyone who may intend to tamper with the test as well. The restroom is prepared in this way prior to every urine drug test.
That in itself proves that the oral fluid drug test is going to be a time saver. Only in the rarest of occasions does someone stop secreting saliva. It’s a naturally occurring process—like breathing.
The testing technician places a mouth swab between the lower cheek and gum of the test subject and asks them to hold it in place until saturated. The entire process usually takes around 5 minutes or so. The sample is bagged and readied for the lab and the employee is out the door and back on the road. That’s all there is to complete the testing process and then, you’re on to the next.
It used to be that the urine drug test was the least expensive drug testing method but that’s no longer the case. The DOT estimated the cost of a urine drug test at $50. Oral fluid drug tests are only $35 apiece.
Are you doing the math already?
We don’t blame you. If we take the DOT’s estimated figures based on the number of companies that will transition from urine testing to oral fluid testing, it works out to a potential overall savings of $6.3 million in the first year alone. They anticipate that figure to grow to $27 million by the 4th year.
That’s pretty phenomenal!
The mouth swab test gives employers more options regarding the reason for the test. For example, when using the test during a post-accident or reasonable suspicion situation, the mouth swab test could show the presence of an active drug.
That can indicate that the drug is still in their system. If that’s the case, a blood test may be in order as soon as possible. It is the only test that positively identifies current impairment.
Case in point quoted from the DOT proposal:
“An oral fluid drug test can detect marijuana use in the past 24 hours, while a urine drug test detects use ranging from 3-67 days prior to collection. Thus, oral fluid testing may give employers more interpretative insight into recent drug use.”
Oral fluid testing could reduce cheating or tampering with the test in any way because the driver—or whoever is taking the test—is observed at all times.
In fact, that’s one of the main reasons that many within the trucking industry have been calling for change. That’s definitely worth mentioning here.
Having a choice
When the DOT receives word that the change in its drug testing policy has been accepted, employers will be the first to know. If using the test benefits their company, they can change their drug testing policy accordingly.
Considering the ease with which the oral fluid test is administered, some may decide that it’s time to have drug testing brought to them.
It’s entirely possible. Companies, like USAMDT, are ready to hit the road any time, day or night.
For instance, you could schedule testing for the night shift on-site and they’d only be away from their post for minutes. Moreover, you won’t be breaking up their normal sleep routine to have them report for testing during normal business hours. They would really appreciate that!
Whether or not you change where your employees take a drug test, having the option of using the oral fluid drug test is going to be a plus for many.