December 15, 2000
U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater today announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has revised its drug and alcohol testing rule, which affects employees of transportation companies who occupy sensitive safety positions, an action that will further enhance the safety of the nation's transportation, make the testing process easier to carry out and provide additional safeguards for employees."Safety is President Clinton and Vice President Gore's highest transportation priority, and this revised drug and alcohol rule will help make our transportation industries safer," Secretary Slater said. "It also makes an important and technically complex safety program easier for everyone to understand and use, while reducing both compliance costs and paperwork."
The rule resulted from a coordinated effort by the Office of the Secretary, six DOT operating administrations * the U.S. Coast Guard, Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Railroad Administration, Federal Transit Administration, Research and Special Programs Administration, and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration -- and transportation employers, labor organizations, and drug and alcohol testing service providers. The department published a proposed rule a year ago. The department received over 400 written comments from interested individuals and organizations. DOT also held three public listening sessions in March 2000 throughout the country to gather additional comments.
The rule issued today amends the department's regulations, first issued in 1988, to require drug testing of employees in sensitive safety positions in the aviation, motor carrier, rail, transit, maritime and pipeline industries. Alcohol testing was added to the requirements in 1994.
The following are some of the changes from current requirements:
To ensure fairness to employees, a medical review officer -- who is a physician -- will review the test results when a laboratory indicates that an employee's specimen may have been adulterated or substituted. Any employee will also be able to obtain, at a different certified laboratory, a test of his or her split specimen -- so called because specimens are split into two separate containers to allow for retesting -- to make sure that the original laboratory did not make an error. Because of the potentially significant impact on the employee following an adulterated or substituted specimen result report, the requirements for physician review and access to testing of the split will be implemented 30 days after publication of this rule. This is consistent with the procedures currently used for drugs of abuse.
Validity testing, which is designed to deter and detect attempts to adulterate or substitute specimens, will continue to be voluntary on the part of the employer utilizing current procedures. When the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which regulates drug-testing laboratories, finalizes its mandatory procedures for validity testing, DOT will publish a notice in the Federal Register making validity testing mandatory in the transportation industry. This process will ensure greater uniformity and consistency of testing in all laboratories.
Employers may apply to the appropriate DOT operating administration for a waiver allowing them to temporarily remove employees from performing safety-related tasks while the medical review officer is deciding whether there may be a legitimate medical explanation for a positive result from a laboratory. The conditions for obtaining a waiver include an important measure to continue to protect employee confidentiality and to allow an employee to be paid during this period.
Contract service providers (often called consortia or third-party administrators) will be authorized, to a greater extent than previously, to transmit information such as drug test results to employers.
There is a new "public interest exclusion" provision in the rule which allows DOT to protect the public from the actions of service providers * firms that conduct tests under contract to transportation companies -- that violate the department's rules. This provision includes significant due-process protections to ensure that the process is fair.
There are enhanced training requirements for drug and alcohol testing personnel. This measure is designed to refine procedures for collectors and breath alcohol technicians to increase their effectiveness, to ensure accurate tests, to ensure that all medical review officers have current technical and regulatory information and training, and to ensure that substance abuse professionals across the country are consistent in their evaluation and assessment of employees who tested positive in the first round of testing for drugs or alcohol.
The majority of the new rule goes into effect Aug. 1, 2001, to give employers and businesses time to learn about its provisions before moving to compliance. A few provisions, such as medical review officer review of suspected adulterated or substituted specimens, the split-specimen review procedures for validity testing, and the public interest exclusions provision, will go into effect 30 days after publication.
The new rule will be published in the Federal Register on Tuesday, Jan. 19 in part 2 of that day's issue. The document will be posted in the department's Docket Management System, which is accessible on-line at http://dms.dot.gov, docket OST-99-6578. It also may be found at http://www.dot.gov/ost/dapc. A copy may be obtained by calling the fax-on-demand telephone line, (1-800-225-3784) and requesting document 151; by writing to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy and Compliance, 400 Seventh Street, S.W., Room 10403, Washington, DC 20590; or by calling the Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy and Compliance at (202) 366-3784.
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