The Department of Transportation (DOT) is regulated and held to strict compliance for drug and alcohol testing. The Federal Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy and Compliance advises on national drug and alcohol testing and control issues and is the primary advisor on the regulations and conditions related to the drug & alcohol testing of safety-sensitive transportation employees in DOT industries. These industries include trucking, mass transit, aviation, railroads, and other transportation types.
The DOT rule, 49 CFR Part 40, defines and describes the compliance procedures for the implementation of workplace drug & alcohol testing for these Federally regulated transportation industries.
Rule 49 CFR Part 40 includes information on how drug and alcohol tests should be conducted and evaluated. Further, should a violation occur, the rules provide official guidelines how employees should receive treatment and what procedures are necessary for the employee to return to work if they test positive in a screening for drug or alcohol use.
The DOT is frequently thought of in conversations related to random drug testing, and for good reason. DOT regulated employees who are performing safety-sensitive job duties, like those in the transportation industry, are responsible for ensuring a safe work environment for other workers as well as for the public. An airline pilot is a clear example as they are responsible for other flight and ground crew employees as well as the public who are traveling on the airplane.
One of the ways that drug screening agencies can assist DOT-regulated industries is through the formation of a "consortium."
A DOT Consortium is a grouping of different DOT-regulated companies into a larger pool of individuals who will be subjected to random drug testing.
A consortium provides a tremendous benefit to independent owner-operators who might be a single individual, making the organization of DOT compliance difficult.
Contrast a consortium to the "stand-alone drug testing" that larger DOT regulated companies use. These companies typically have many employees and can conduct random drug screening on a percent of those employees without difficulty.
Consortiums provide another benefit since staying within DOT compliance is critical. As of this writing, the DOT regulations require random drug testing of 25% of the consortium pool and random alcohol testing of 10% of the pool.
Here's an example. Consider a consortium made up of 100 trucking owner operators. Each quarter, 25% of the owner-operator pool is selected at random for drug testing. This means 25 members of the consortium are selected for drug screening. Also, each quarter, 10%, or 10 members, are selected for random alcohol testing.
Each test is mutually exclusive to the previous test and is random in their nature. This means that the possibility exists for the same person to be selected randomly during concurrent screenings. While that might not seem fair, that is how random drug screening works.
Once someone is chosen for random drug or alcohol testing, they are informed and must go immediately to a sample collection facility. There is often a misunderstanding that once selected, an individual has a certain amount of time to schedule and take the test. This is not true, the effectiveness of random drug screening is based on the immediacy of the test.
Violations of the DOT regulations are a serious matter. First, there is a safety risk, and industry co-workers and the public could be placed in danger. Next, there is a liability risk for the company that employs the regulated employee. Finally, there is a financial risk, since violations of DOT regulations can carry a penalty of up to $10,000 per occurrence.
The DOT regulations are referred to as the "gold standard" for random drug and alcohol testing int he workplace. This is because of the importance the DOT has placed on keeping a safe and secure work environment. Many times, when employers are looking to maintain a drug-free workplace, they reference the DOT regulations for random drug screening.
Working with an accredited drug testing agency is also important. Agencies like National Drug Screening have extensive knowledge in DOT regulations and helping companies become compliant using elements like consortiums.