Random Drug Testing Guidelines

>VIDEO BLOG >> Is random drug testing legal?  Yes, it is but, in some States, it is limited to safety sensitive positions.

Random drug testing is more effective at detecting and deterring drug use or alcohol abuse than pre-employment testing because employees do not know when they may be selected for testing.  The random test should always be unannounced and a surprise.  Once an employee is notified of a random test selection, the employee should report immediately for the random test.  Contrary to myth there is no 24-hour period to get a random test completed.

Random testing puts teeth in the drug free workplace program.  It discourages the use of drugs or abuse of alcohol while the employees are working.  You can save money with random testing by creating a safer workplace, healthier workplace, and more stable workplace.  Always put together a drug free workplace policy that explains the requirement of random testing.

Your drug testing vendor should be able to help you with the random drug testing process.  This will help you maintain legal compliance.  Look to a professional third-party administrator (TPA) for your drug free workplace policy and program, drug testing and effective management of the random testing.  The random selection process should always be a scientifically valid computer program tested to be accurate for random selections.

Non-DOT Random Testing

Not required but as mentioned above, highly beneficial to employers.  Even doing random testing of a small percentage of employees say 10% can be very beneficial.  It will not cost much but give back a huge return on investment.  Employees appreciate a program that monitors their co-workers for potential illicit drug use or alcohol abuse.

DOT Random Testing 

For Department of Transportation (DOT) regulated companies, random testing is always required regardless of State law.  Each DOT agency as listed below, maintains required annual percentage rates for random testing.

DOT Agency% of Drug Tests Required Annually% of Alcohol Tests Required Annually
FAA – The aviation industry, or Federal Aviation Administration.25%
FMCSA – Commercial Motor Carriers, or Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). 50%10%
USCG – United States Coast Guard/Maritime. 50%N/A
PHMSA – Pipeline industry, or employers regulated by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. 50%N/A
FRA – Railroad industry, Federal Railroad  Administration  25%10%
FTA – Transit industry or employers regulated by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA)50%10%

The FRA – Railroad industry, Federal Railroad  Administration has an additional program called Maintenance of Way or MOW.   In 2016 FRA proposed rules to expand the scope of its drug and alcohol regulation to cover MOW employees.  These employees are typically contractors of the railroads and the employees work on or near the rail tracks.  The required random testing for this group of employees is 50% for drugs and 25% for alcohol.

Random testing is serious business for the DOT regulated employers and auditors always look at the compliance with the random testing required by the DOT and the DOT agency.  The DOT publishes a great guide to help you understand the regulations and best practices for random testing.  Take a few minutes to review the document – Best Practices for DOT Random Drug and Alcohol Testing.

Best Practices for Random Testing

The DOT Best random drug testing practices includes great information on the following:

  1. Random testing required for safety-sensitive employees
  2. Random Testing Rates
  3. Who is required to have random testing under DOT rules
  4. Setting up the random pool – consortium pool or standalone pool
  5. How employees are selected for testing
  6. How often should random test selections and tests take place
  7. How employees are notified to report for a random drug test 
  8. What happens when a selected employee is not available for random drug or alcohol testing
  9. Immediate random testing after notification
  10. Compliance and monitoring of your random drug and alcohol testing program

More Information on Random Drug Testing

Listed below are several additional resources on random drug and alcohol testing:

DOT & Non-DOT Random Drug Testing



For expert management of DOT or NON-DOT random drug and alcohol testing programs, contact National Drug Screening, Inc.

Random Drug Testing Guidelines
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