Drug testing is a helpful risk-reduction tool, and businesses that want to avoid risky behavior will drug test their employees. Employers with positions covered by the Department of Transportation (DOT) must administer tests under the guidelines established by that agency, as required by law. Before hiring anyone, employers must determine which positions can be categorized as safety-sensitive to comply with The Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act of 1991
A safety-sensitive job is a particular type of employment in which an employee’s performance can affect the safety of themselves, other employees, or the general public. This term is typically used in industries such as transportation, aviation, construction, healthcare, and manufacturing, where the consequences of a mistake can be severe. For example, a pilot who operates a plane while under the influence of drugs or alcohol can put the lives of passengers and crew members at risk while in the air. Similarly, a construction worker who fails to follow proper safety procedures can cause accidents that may result in serious injuries or fatalities to those on the construction site and to bystanders passing by. Employers in safety-sensitive industries often have specific policies and procedures to ensure their employees are fit for duty and capable of performing their jobs safely. This may include drug and alcohol testing, safety training, and other measures to prevent accidents and promote workplace safety.
The most significant federal law affecting sectors of the economy that are concerned with safety is the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act of 1991. All safety-sensitive employees in the aircraft, trucking, railroads, public transit, pipeline, and other transportation industries must submit to drug and alcohol testing. The statute applies to every employer whose company is regulated by one of the following federal authorities or organizations:
- Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
- Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)
- Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)
- Federal Transit Administration (FTA)
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
- Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA)
U.S. Coast Guard
Although each of the above agencies has developed specific guidelines and procedures for complying with the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act, they all follow the exact core requirements.
- Employers are required to test safety-sensitive employees at specific points.
- Employers are required to have a program of random drug testing in place.
- All drug testing must be done by a certified laboratory listed by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
All drug testing must test for five different classes of drugs: marijuana metabolites, cocaine metabolites, amphetamines, opioid metabolites, and phencyclidine (PCP).
- All alcohol testing employees must strictly adhere to DOT’s policies and procedures for alcohol testing.
- A qualified medical review officer must review all tests.
- All employees, whether in safety-sensitive positions or not, must receive drug and alcohol awareness training and education.
- All supervisors must receive at least two hours of substance use detection, documentation, and intervention training.
- The employer must refer any employee with a substance use problem to a trained substance abuse professional.
Marijuana and the Department of Transportation
The Department of Transportation (DOT) regulates transportation industries such as trucking, aviation, and railroad transportation. Employees in these industries must undergo drug testing to ensure that they are not under the influence of drugs or alcohol while performing their duties. The DOT’s drug testing regulations require testing for the following five classes of drugs: Marijuana, Cocaine, Opiates (opium and codeine derivatives), Amphetamines and methamphetamines, and Phencyclidine (PCP).
Marijuana use is an increasing concern under the Department of Transportation. While many states have legalized the use of marijuana for medical or recreational purposes, the DOT strictly prohibits the use of marijuana by employees who perform safety-sensitive functions. Even if an employee uses marijuana for medical purposes, they may still be prohibited from performing safety-sensitive operations if they test positive for the drug. The DOT’s regulations also prohibit the use of marijuana even if it is legal in the employee’s state. This is because the DOT’s regulations are federal, and federal law still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance.
If an employee tests positive for marijuana, they may be subject to disciplinary action, including termination. However, this depends on the specific circumstances of the employee’s situation and their employer’s policies. The severity and consequence of these penalties differ from employer to employer and company to company. Some businesses have a zero-tolerance policy for drug and alcohol infractions and may terminate a driver altogether, but not all violators are necessarily fired. If you have a good rapport or have been with a company for a while, your employer can hold your position for you until you get your violation lifted. It is essential to speak with your employer about their specific rules and regulations to know your options after violating DOT drug and alcohol regulations. Employees may sometimes seek treatment or counseling to address their drug use and return to duty by completing an SAP Program. Completing a DOT SAP Program will make you hireable by any DOT company, whether that’s a past or prospective employer.
To avoid all of this, it is essential for employees in transportation industries to be aware of the DOT’s drug testing regulations and to avoid using marijuana or other drugs while performing safety-sensitive functions. While marijuana may be legal in some states, it is still prohibited under federal law and may have severe consequences for employees in transportation industries.