The United States Department of Transportation recently made an astounding announcement that a final rule of the use of oral fluid to drug test truck drivers. This is a move in order to avoid the cheating of urine-based examinations, in addition to addressing the privacy concerns of the drivers being tested.
The DOT had commented on the Federal Register post that the addition of the oral fluid testing as an option is in accordance with balancing the individual’s right to privacy with the department’s interest in preserving transportation safety by avoiding illegal drug use. The oral collections will be used since they are collected right in front of the collector, which is not nearly as intrusive on the tested employee’s privacy.
The new rule that is being adopted to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is also being adopted by the Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Railroad Administration, and the Federal Transit Administration. This new rule states that that policy will also provide employees with the option to take the drug test using either the urine or oral fluid method.
However, in order for the employees to use the new oral drug testing method, the United States Department of Health and Human Services must certify no less than two laboratories for oral fluid testing, which has not been completed yet. Furthermore, the oral fluid testing will be allowed to be used for individuals in accidents, for cause, and for random testing.
While Congress had previously passed a mandate in 2015, the HHS has yet to make a final decision on whether or not to allow motor carriers to test drivers using hair samples. This method has a longer detection window and could capture lifestyle drug usage. There have been instances that drivers have been able to pass the urine tests, but have failed the hair tests as the drugs stay in the hair longer.
The DOT proposed a plan in February of 2022 in order to adopt oral testing guidelines, despite urine testing being the only official method for drug testing. This is particularly due to the viability of oral fluid testing greatly advancing, making it accurate and capable for federal employee testing.
There are a number of advantages to oral fluid testing, but one in particular is in terms of finances. The oral fluid testing is typically cheaper than the urine testing. Oral fluid testing costs anywhere from $10 to $20, while urine testing costs around $35 per test. The DOT has noted that there is no definitive drug impairment test, even though oral fluid testing could create a better indicator of an employee’s recent drug use.
There are a few concerns with the oral fluid testing, mainly that the fluids would be used for DNA testing. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association had requested the DOT to educate industry stakeholders about the science and forensic support of the oral fluid testing. Furthermore, the OOIDA would like the DOT to explain how the oral testing would be implemented and administered.
The OOIDA does want to differentiate and address the concerns within the trucking industry about the differences between roadside oral fluid drug tests and the DOT’s regulated laboratory tests. It should be noted that the state and local law enforcement agencies perform roadside testing. The law enforcement agencies conduct an entirely separate testing outside of the DOT regulated drug testing.
Overall, the transportation industry is always looking for new ways to improve the process of drug testing, and oral fluid testing is one of the best options available. There are a number of advantages to the oral fluid testing, like the privacy of the employees, improving the efficiency of the tests, the quick turnaround time, and the financial benefits associated with these tests. There are a few opposed to the oral testing as urine tests have been the only type of drug testing for a while.
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