In its final rule, which takes effect October 1, 2010, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) amended procedures for transportation workplace drug and alcohol testing programs in order to create consistency with many new requirements established by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). HHS establishes the standards for federal workplace drug testing programs.

Although not required to follow DOT drug testing guidelines, many LIUNA signatory contractors do because DOT rules are considered the “gold standard” in workplace drug testing. As always, it is important that LIUNA members familiarize themselves with their employers’ drug-free workplace policies in order to know what drug and alcohol use is and is not permissible under the terms of their employment.

Key Changes in DOT Drug Test Rules

  • The DOT is required by the Omnibus Transportation Employees Testing Act (Omnibus Act) to follow the HHS requirements for the testing procedures/protocols and drugs for which DOT tests.
  • The DOT brought several testing definitions in line with those of HHS such as initial drug test, laboratory and negative result.
  • DOT now requires drug testing for Ecstasy (Methylenedioxymethamphetamine or MDMA).  The initial screening cut-off concentration for MDMA will be 500 ng/ml, and the confirmatory cut-off concentration will be 250 ng/ml for MDMA as well as Methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA) and Methylenedioxyethylamphetamine (MDEA), drugs that are chemically similar to Ecstasy.
  • Cocaine: The initial screening test cutoff drops from 300 to 150 ng/ml, and the confirmatory test cutoff concentration has been lowered from 150 to 100 ng/ml.
  • Amphetamines: The initial screening test cutoff has been lowered from 1,000 to 500 ng/ml, and the confirmatory drug test cutoff concentration has been lowered from 500 to 250 ng/ml.
  • Initial drug testing for 6-acetylmorphine (“6-AM,” a unique metabolite of heroin, considered to be definitive proof of heroin use) is now required. Specific rules have been added to address the way in which Medical Review Officers (MROs) analyze and verify confirmed positive drug test results for 6-AM, codeine and morphine.
  • Unlike the proposed rulemaking set forth on February 4, 2010, the final rule does not allow the use of HHS-Certified Instrumented Initial Testing Facilities (IITFs) to conduct initial drug testing. This is because the Omnibus Act requires laboratories to be able to perform both initial and confirmation testing, and IITFs cannot conduct confirmation testing.
  • Each MRO will need to be re-qualified, including passing an examination given by an MRO training organization, every five years. The final rule eliminates the requirement for each MRO to take 12 hours of continuing education every three years.

Among the DOT changes is the addition of required testing for Ecstasy (Methylenedioxymethamphetamine or MDMA) and 6-AM, a metabolite of heroin.  In addition, cut-off screening and confirmatory levels for cocaine and amphetamines were lowered. Full details of the final rule are available in the Federal Register.

In a separate announcement, DOT extended the date to January 1, 2011, on which use of updated Alcohol Testing Forms (ATF), the forms filled out by donors providing specimens for testing, will be required. Originally, the effective date was August 1, 2010. The extension is intended to allow employers and testing technicians to use up existing supplies of the old form.

The LHSFNA is available to provide consultation and assistance with all drug-free workplace policy and program needs. The Fund can help develop workplace substance abuse policies, enhance existing ones and/or provide supervisory and worker training.

[Jamie Becker is the LHSFNA’s Associate Director, Health Promotion.]