DOT Approves Oral Fluid Testing for Covered Employees

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has recently issued its final rule to amend regulations, allowing oral fluid testing for employees in the transportation industry. This development is set to streamline the drug testing process, offering a more efficient alternative to existing procedures, particularly in shy-bladder scenarios. The Notice of this rule is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on May 2, 2023. You can find the notice here: https://public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2023-08041.pdf

Oral Fluid Testing Approval 

Oral fluid testing will soon become an option for drug testing DOT employees. However, before it can be implemented, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) must certify at least two oral fluid laboratories. At the time of writing, this certification has not yet occurred.

Once certification is complete, employers in the transportation industry will have an additional choice in their drug testing program, as approved by the DOT. This new method is expected to harmonize with the Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing Programs using Oral Fluid established by the HHS.


Advantages of Oral Fluid Testing 

DOT officials believe that oral fluid testing can offer several benefits, including a less time-consuming alternative to existing procedures. In situations where an employee cannot produce a sufficient urine specimen due to a shy bladder or when specimens show evidence of tampering, oral fluid testing can serve as an efficient alternative.

Currently, individuals are given up to three hours to produce a urine specimen. If they are still unable to do so, they must be referred to a physician for further evaluation. The new rule allows employers to switch immediately to an oral fluid collection after the first failed attempt, streamlining the process. A similar switch can be made from oral fluid to urine collection in cases where an employee experiences a "dry mouth" situation.


Reducing Anxiety and Discomfort 

Oral fluid testing can also help reduce anxiety, discomfort, and other burdens for individuals undergoing testing. It is less intrusive and time-consuming than urine testing. While most DOT-regulated urine tests are unobserved, a small number require direct observation, causing discomfort for both the employee and the observer. By allowing oral fluid testing as an alternative, the DOT aims to reduce discomfort and potential civil rights issues for transgender or non-binary individuals, while also lowering barriers to transportation employment for those deterred by current testing requirements.


Certification of Laboratories: A Prerequisite for Implementation 

It is essential for companies in the transportation industry to understand that they cannot begin using oral fluid testing until the required laboratories are certified by the HHS. Currently, no laboratories have been certified for oral fluid testing. Until this critical step is completed, companies must continue to rely on existing drug testing methods. DISA Global Solutions is committed to keeping the industry informed on the progress of laboratory certification and will provide updates as new information becomes available. By staying informed, companies can ensure a smooth transition to oral fluid testing once the necessary certifications are in place. In the meantime, employers can start preparing now by considering the following:

  • How/when oral fluid will become applicable to their DOT employees
  • Policy revision
  • Policy distribution
  • Training

DISA Global Solutions: Ensuring Compliance and Supporting Oral Fluid Testing 

As the transportation industry adapts to these new drug testing regulations, DISA Global Solutions is here to help companies stay compliant and integrate oral fluid testing into their programs. With expertise in the transportation sector and a deep understanding of industry regulations, DISA can assist employers in navigating the changes brought about by the DOT's final rule, ensuring a smooth transition to oral fluid testing.

The DOT's final rule on oral fluid testing brings a more efficient and less intrusive drug testing option to the transportation industry. As the HHS works to certify oral fluid laboratories, employers can look forward to a streamlined drug testing process that is expected to improve the effectiveness of testing and reduce anxiety and discomfort for employees. DISA can help companies stay compliant and successfully implement oral fluid testing in their drug testing programs.

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About DISA Global Solutions   

Founded in 1986, DISA is the industry-leading provider of employee screening and compliance services. Headquartered in Houston, with more than 35 offices throughout the U.S. and Canada, DISA’s comprehensive scope of services includes drug and alcohol testing, background screening, occupational health, and transportation compliance. DISA assists employers in making informed staffing decisions while building a culture of safety in their workplace.