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DOT Covered Employees

Lots of questions about DOT covered employees every day. Let us try and sort it out. The Department of Transportation does provide a great tool to help employees and employers determine if they are subject to the U.S. Department of Transportation drug and alcohol testing regulations. This interactive tool is called Am I Covered?

DOT Agency Specific Covered Employees

It is important to understand that covered employees are defined differently under each agency. Each DOT agency is a specific mode of transportation, certainly differences between truck drivers and employees of airlines. DOT drug and alcohol testing should always be performed only on DOT covered employees. If the employee is not DOT covered and/or not performing DOT safety sensitive functions, then the testing should be Non-DOT. Mixing up DOT and Non-DOT testing can cause serious compliance programs and potential exposure to liability.

Top view of many Semi-Trucks

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Admin (FMCSA) Covered Employees

Employees working on public roads meeting the following criteria are FMCSA covered employees. These are employees who:

  • hold a Commercial Driver's License (CDL), or similar license issued by Mexico or Canada, and
  • operate a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) in any state

A commercial motor vehicle (CMV) is then defined as a vehicle:

  • with a gross vehicle weight rating/gross vehicle weight or gross combination weight rating/gross combination weight of 26,001 or more lbs., or
  • designed to carry 16 or more passengers (including the driver), or
  • of any size that is used to transport hazardous materials which require the vehicle to be placarded

With FMCSA there is only one category of covered employee which is Driver.

Front underside view of an airplane

Federal Aviation Admin (FAA) Covered Employees

There are nine categories of covered employees that perform safety-sensitive functions under FAA regulations, and these include subcontractors at any tier. These are:

  • Flight crewmember (pilot or flight engineer)
  • Flight Attendant
  • Flight Instruction
  • Aircraft Dispatcher
  • Aircraft Maintenance or Preventive Maintenance
  • Ground Security Coordinator
  • Aviation Screening
  • Air Traffic Control
  • Operations Control Specialist

When employees in these categories perform safety-sensitive functions, directly or by contract, for an air carrier or operator certificated under Part 119 to conduct Part 121 or 135 operations; a sightseeing operator as defined in 14 CFR section 91.147; or an air traffic control facility not operated by the FAA or under contract with the U.S. Military; they are FAA covered employees.

Oil pipelines in the desert

Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) Covered Employees

There are three categories of covered employees working on a pipeline:

  • Operations (control the movement or storage of gas, LNG, hazardous liquids, or carbon dioxide); OR
  • Maintenance (preserve a pipeline or LNG facility for future use); OR
  • Emergency Response (steps taken to identify emergencies, protect people, and return a pipeline or LNG facility to normal operation).

These are PHMSA covered employees when they:

  • perform functions on a pipeline regulated under the federal pipeline safety regulations that transports natural gas transports hazardous liquids
  • perform functions for a liquefied natural gas facility regulated under the federal pipeline safety regulations
Cargo ship carrying shipping containers

United States Coast Guard (USCG) Covered Employees

There is one category under USCG regulations that is a USCG covered employee – this is crewmember; basically, all working on a vessel for hire - a U.S. flagged commercial vessel. Typically everyone working on the vessel has some sort of responsibility for the safety of the crew and passengers and these folks are subject to drug and alcohol testing under U.S. Coast Guard (46 CFR Parts 4 and 16) and DOT (49 CFR Part 40). Note the Captain of the ship is also classified as a crewmember.

Bus driving on the road

Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Covered Employees

FTA regulated employers are those that are recipients, sub-recipients, contractors, or sub-contractors who receive Federal assistance from the FTA. These are typically mass transit systems operating both in large cities and in rural areas.

The covered employees perform the following functions for an operator or contractor that provides public mass transit service:

  • Operate a transit revenue service vehicle;
    Operate a non-revenue vehicle that requires a CDL;
  • Mechanic; or
  • Armed security

Additional FTA covered employees would include dispatch employees and volunteers performing the above functions.

A train going very fast

Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Covered Employees

FRA covered employees perform functions under the railroad Hours of Service Laws. These are train employees, dispatch employees and signal employees. These include locomotive engineers and conductors. The following categories are subject to testing:

  • Operate a transit revenue service vehicle;
    Operate a non-revenue vehicle that requires a CDL;
  • Maintenance-of-Way (MOW): Track/Roadway Worker

It is important to identify in your drug and alcohol testing program the categories of applicants and employees that you are testing for. This is important for your required annual Drug and Alcohol Management Information System (MIS) reports. Here again is a full listing of covered-employee categories:

DOT Agency

Covered Employee Category


Covered Employee Category (one category): Driver


Covered Employee Category (nine categories): Flight Crewmember; Flight Attendant; Flight Instructor; Aircraft Dispatcher; Aircraft Maintenance and preventive maintenance; Ground Security Screener; Aviation Screener; Air Traffic Controller; Operations Control Specialist


Covered Employee Category (one category): Operation/Maintenance/Emergency Response


Covered Employee Category (six categories): Engine Service; Train Service; Dispatcher/Operation; Signal Service; Other [Includes yardmasters, hostlers (non-engineer craft), bridge tenders; switch tenders, and other miscellaneous employees performing 49 CFR 228.5 (c) defined covered service.]; Roadway Worker/Maintenance-of-Way [as defined in 49 CFR Part 214.7]


Covered Employee Category (five categories): Revenue Vehicle Operation; Revenue Vehicle and Equipment Maintenance; Revenue Vehicle Control/Dispatch; CDL/Non-Revenue Vehicle; Armed Security Personnel


Covered Employee Category (one category): Crewmember

For every DOT drug or alcohol test performed the demographic information for that test should include the DOT agency and the specific agency covered employee category. Contact National Drug Screening for assistance with DOT drug and alcohol testing programs with full compliance and assistance with MIS reports.