USDOT Now Allows Oral Fluids (Saliva) Drug Testing

The U.S. Department of Transportation has issued a Final Rule allowing the use of oral fluids in drug testing of safety-sensitive employees subject to federal drug testing rules. The USDOT decision covers the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), Federal Railroad Administration, Federal Aviation Administration and Federal Transit Administration.

The rule is scheduled to take effect on June 1, 2023. However, USDOT notes that before employers can implement this rule, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) must first certify at least two laboratories to analyze oral fluids samples. One lab will be required for an initial analysis, while a second lab must be available should an employee request a confirmatory analysis of a split sample. As of the publication date of this Final Rule, HHS had not certified any laboratories to handle oral fluids. Here is a link to HHS-certified laboratories.

The Final Rule states that employers may choose to utilize either or both of the drug testing methodologies, and that it is the employer’s choice. USDOT does suggest that employers thoroughly review their collection sites to ensure the presence of testing kits and trained collectors. ICSA’s endorsed drug testing partner – Texas Alcohol & Drug Testing Service (TADTS) – is expected to offer saliva tests to employers who wish to utilize them.

Oral fluids testing has several benefits:

  • Such tests are non-invasive
  • Saliva testing can be used when the test administrator must directly observe the sample collection
  • Saliva testing eliminates the possibility of tainted or substituted samples, as can occur with urine tests
  • Use of saliva testing meets the needs of employees suffering from a shy bladder
  • Oral fluids testing is a practical solution for roadside, post-crash and reasonable suspicion tests when timely access to a facility for collection of a urine sample may not be possible.

The USDOT rule on the use of oral fluids in drug testing does not affect the current status of hair testing – an ICSA requirement of its Platinum Members – as a non-DOT test.

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