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Department of Transportation Drug and Alcohol Testing Regulations

The Department of Transportation (DOT) has issued new drug and alcohol testing rules. The regulations are the result of the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act of 1991. These regulations cover 7.4 million workers with safety-sensitive responsibilities regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), and the Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA).

Each of these agencies has its own, similar regulations. The Federal Highway Administration rule is summarized in greatest detail because this regulation affects the most AFSCME members. State and local government employees who are required to have a commercial drivers license (CDL) are all covered by the Federal Highway Administration rule.

The meaning of employees who perform safety-sensitive functions is different in the various regulations:

Federal Highway Administration:

  • Drivers who operate commercial motor vehicles

Federal Transit Administration:

  • Operating a revenue service vehicle
  • Operating a nonrevenue service vehicle, when required to be operated by a holder of a Commercial Driver's License
  • Controlling dispatch or movement of a revenue service vehicle
  • Maintaining a revenue service vehicle or equipment used in revenue service
  • Carrying a firearm for security purposes

Research and Special Programs Administration:

  • Employees who perform an operation, maintenance, or emergency-response function on a pipeline or at a liquefied natural gas facility

Federal Aviation Administration:

  • Flight crewmember
  • Flight attendant
  • Flight instruction
  • Aircraft dispatcher
  • Aircraft maintenance or preventive maintenance
  • Ground security coordinator duties
  • Aviation screening
  • Air traffic control


The DOT rules include procedures for performing drug and alcohol tests. Alcohol tests are to be conducted using evidential breath test devices (EBTs). The drug testing procedures are already in effect. The most notable change in the drug testing procedures is the requirement for a split sample at the time of specimen collection. In the split sample method the urine specimen is divided into two containers. The purpose of the split sample is to allow the employee the opportunity to have the specimen retested at a different certified laboratory.

There are some issues concerning drug and alcohol use and testing that have been left to employers' policies or collective bargaining. These include discipline resulting from violations of these regulations and rights to rehabilitation services.