Last updated: March 20, 2023
A report titled “DOT Has Taken Steps to Verify and Publicize Drug and Alcohol Testing Data but Should Do More” was published by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in March 2021. Could the general workforce benefit from accessing the drug testing data too?
The report examines:
- How the DOT uses drug and alcohol testing data
- How DOT verifies that data are reliable
- Whether DOT follows key actions for transparently reporting drug and alcohol testing data
There may be a broader audience for the public drug and alcohol testing data as there is for key actions for open government data.
Currently, the DOT primarily uses drug and alcohol testing data to determine the random yearly testing rates for the safety-sensitive workforce in each industry under its jurisdiction. However, in response to a recommendation made in the GAO report, the DOT is requesting input from the public at large to discover if they would benefit from accessing the data too.
Make your thoughts known
The DOT has opened a public session and is asking anyone who wants to express their opinion on this matter to please do so. Hurry, though, because the comment period ends on August 1, 2022.
Comments must include the following identification number:
Docket Number DOT-OST-2022-0037
Lastly, to avoid duplication, please only submit your comment once using one of the following methods:
To access the Federal eRulemaking Portal, go to https://www.regulations.gov/docket/ or DOT-OST-2022-0037/document. Follow the online instructions for submitting comments.
Please send your comment by U.S. mail to the following address:
Docket Management Facility
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue SE
West Building, Ground Floor, Room W12-140
Washington, DC 20590-0001
Hand delivery or courier
Deliver your comment personally or through courier between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday, except on Federal holidays. to:
West Building, Ground Floor, Room W12-140
1200 New Jersey Avenue SE
Send your comments by fax to:
DOT requires drug tests for safety’s sake
All modes of transportation whether over the land, on the roads or railways, on the water, in the air, or even underground are regulated by the DOT. Therefore, individuals who work in these industries must follow the strict regulations required of a safety-sensitive employee.
The industries are:
The DOT began drug testing the safety-sensitive workforce back in 1988 because two catastrophic accidents occurred in which the drivers tested positive for drugs. There are currently over six million drug and alcohol tests conducted within the safety-sensitive workforce each year.
Testing scenarios include:
- Reasonable suspicion
In addition to using drug and alcohol testing as a deterrent to using illicit drugs and misusing alcohol in the transportation industry, the DOT continues to create prevention and treatment opportunities for transportation employers and their employees.
Compiling MIS Data
Management Information System Data is a compilation of a company’s drug testing data for an entire year. Employers are required to use the standardized, one-page “Drug and Alcohol Testing MIS Data Collection Form” as provided in Appendix H to part 40 in the DOT regulations. Subsequently, technology now allows employers to use an electronic submission form as well.
It’s the employer’s responsibility to collect and compile the drug and alcohol testing information generated throughout the year. The information must be submitted annually. For each employee category, the employer is required to report:
- All positive and negative drug testing results—currently only the urine drug test is approved for DOT drug testing
- All positive and negative alcohol testing results
- Refusals to test
Moreover, the information is then broken down into the type of test conducted, such as a pre-employment or random drug test.
Employers must complete and submit the MIS form no later than March 15th of any given year. For the record, the MIS form doesn’t contain any employee-specific information.
GAO recommendations for DOT
The GAO’s latest report listed three recommendations to the DOT and they are:
- The Secretary of Transportation should request an evaluation of the different processes used by each modal administration to verify specifics regarding drug and alcohol testing data in regard to inspections and checking data for errors.
- The DOT’s website should disclose known limitations of drug and alcohol testing data consistent with key actions for open government.
- The Director of ODAPC should reach out to potential users in the general workforce because there may be a broader audience for the public data. Moreover, if the DOT identifies a broader audience, the GAO suggests engaging with potential users to evaluate the benefits and costs of making website improvements.
DOT Concurs with GAO
The DOT responded favorably to the recommendations and is taking steps to put their suggestions in place. As a matter of fact, it required each operating administration to complete a review to identify whether or not any additional process improvements need to be taken to improve the reliability of the gathered data. The evaluations were to be completed by June 30, 2022.
Additionally, the Office of Drug & Alcohol Policy & Compliance (ODAPC) has highlighted the fact that public drug and alcohol testing data is available on the DOT website at numerous conferences and training sessions throughout the year.
- American Association of Medical Review Officers
- Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry AssociationSubstance
- Abuse Program Administrators Association
- HHS’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
- Administration’s Drug Testing Advisory Board
- FTA’s annual drug and alcohol conference
Meanwhile, the DOT is following through with its commitment to transparency by opening the comment period. It plans to utilize the input received to help increase awareness regarding the availability of data on the website. Moreover, being responsive to user feedback and engaging with those who provide comments will allow for collaborations and a chance to solicit input from non-governmental entities.
Ultimately, though, the goal in reaching out to the public is to determine how these users may value and use the test data that is publically available to them. Moreover, the comments could provide insight on how to improve and maintain the website in the future.
Paving the Way for Safe Travel
By addressing the recommendations presented in the report, the DOT is acknowledging that its ultimate goal is to keep the public safe. Sharing the drug and alcohol testing data collected during the year with employers in the general workforce may allow them to utilize it in a way that creates a safer workplace for their own employees.
A spokesperson for the GAO stated, “With a better understanding of potential needs and uses of the data, DOT would be able to determine whether implementing these actions would provide benefits consistent with any implementation costs.”
If comments warrant making changes to include a broader audience, then, the DOT will engage with users to evaluate the benefits—and costs—of adopting any additional key actions for open government data and will include making improvements to its website.