DOT issues guidance, but not exemption, for DOT drug-and-alcohol testing during pandemic

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drug testing results
drug testing guidelines

WASHINGTON — With the COVID-19 pandemic, there is concern throughout the trucking industry regarding DOT drug-and-alcohol testing. The Department of Transportation has offered a set of guidelines for DOT-regulated employers, employees and service agents regarding testing.

Below is the guidance offered by the DOT regarding compliance with the DOT and modal drug-and-alcohol testing programs during this period of national emergency.

For DOT-Regulated Employers:

  • As a DOT-regulated employer, you must comply with applicable DOT training and testing requirements. However, DOT recognizes that compliance may not be possible in certain areas due to the unavailability of program resources, such as collection sites, breath-alcohol technicians, medical-review officers and substance abuse professionals. You should make a reasonable effort to locate the necessary resources. As a best practice at this time, employers should consider mobile collection services for required testing if the fixed-site collection facilities are not available.
  • If you are unable to conduct DOT drug or alcohol training or testing due to COVID-19-related supply shortages, facility closures, state or locally imposed quarantine requirements, or other impediments, you are to continue to comply with existing applicable DOT Agency requirements to document why a test was not completed. If training or testing can be conducted later, you are to do so in accordance with applicable modal regulations. Links to the modal regulations and their respective web pages can be found here.
  • If employers are unable to conduct DOT drug-and-alcohol testing due to the unavailability of testing resources, the underlying modal regulations continue to apply. For example, without a “negative” pre-employment drug test result, an employer may not permit a prospective or current employee to perform any DOT safety-sensitive functions.
  • Additionally, DOT is aware that some employees have expressed concern about potential public-health risks associated with the collection and testing process in the current environment. Employers should review the applicable DOT Agency requirements for testing to determine whether flexibilities allow for collection and testing at a later date.
  • As a reminder, it is the employer’s responsibility to evaluate the circumstances of the employee’s refusal to test and determine whether the employee’s actions should be considered a refusal. However, as the COVID-19 outbreak poses a novel public health risk, DOT asks employers to be sensitive to employees who indicate they are not comfortable or are afraid to go to clinics or collection sites. DOT asks employers to verify with the clinic or collection site that it has taken the necessary precautions to minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
  • Employers should revisit back-up plans to ensure the plans are current and effective for the current outbreak conditions. For example, these plans should include availability of collectors and collection sites and BAT, and alternate/back-up MRO, as these may have changed as a result of the national emergency. Employers should also have regular communications with service agents regarding the service agent’s availability and capability to support your DOT drug-and-alcohol testing program.

For DOT-Regulated Employees:

  • If you are experiencing COVID-19-related symptoms, you should contact your medical provider and, if necessary, let your employer know about your availability to perform work.
  • If you have COVID-19-related concerns about testing, you should discuss them with your employer.
  • As a reminder, it is the employer’s responsibility to evaluate the circumstances of an employee’s refusal to test and determine whether the employee’s actions should be considered a refusal.

For Service Agents:

  • As a collector, BAT, laboratory, MRO or SAP, you should continue to provide services to DOT-regulated employers if it is possible to do so in accordance with state or local mandates related to COVID-19. Should you have concerns about COVID-19 when testing or interacting with employees, follow your company policy, directions from state and local officials, and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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