Advancing Drug Testing in the Transportation Industry: The Rise of Oral Fluid Sample Tests and Ensuring Privacy and Integrity

By Bill Rohr
Uploaded: July 11, 2023

Drug testing is a standard practice in the transportation industry, and it plays a crucial role in maintaining safety on the roads. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) on May 2, 2023, released a final rule officially sanctioning oral-fluid testing as a method for screening transportation workers’ use of illicit drugs. The rule took effect June 1, per DOT in its publication to the Federal Register. However, there is the possibility of delays beyond that date in fleet-level implementation as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) certifies at least two laboratories to process the tests (See Note 1). 

Recruiters can play a vital role in educating driver applicants about the implementation of oral fluid sample drug tests. Recruiters assist driver applicants by scheduling and confirming drug screens and ensuring that candidates are aware of the importance of being clear-headed and focused while operating commercial vehicles. By facilitating this process, recruiters help transportation companies maintain a drug-free work environment and ensure the well-being of both drivers and the general public.

Driver applicants are typically required to undergo pre-employment drug testing, which may include urine or hair follicle tests. Recruiters guide candidates through the process, providing information about the testing procedures and assisting with scheduling appointments at approved testing facilities. Once the drug test results are available, recruiters follow up with the candidates to communicate the outcome and discuss the next steps in the hiring process.

This new rule also applies to airlines and freight railroads and amends DOT’s industry drug testing program to include oral fluid testing. It allows for the use of oral fluid samples as an alternative to traditional urine or hair follicle tests. Oral fluid testing offers several advantages, including ease of collection and faster results, making it a more convenient option for both drivers and testing facilities.

The implementation of oral fluid sample drug tests raises important considerations, such as the right to privacy. Privacy concerns have been a significant topic of discussion surrounding drug testing, as it involves collecting and analyzing personal biological samples. With the use of oral fluid testing, drivers may feel more at ease as it offers a less invasive collection method compared to urine or hair follicle tests. This can help protect the driver’s right to privacy while still ensuring compliance with drug testing regulations.

Urine tests have been the traditional method for drug testing, but they can be susceptible to tampering or substitution of samples. Oral fluid tests provide a more difficult opportunity for individuals to manipulate or adulterate the samples, thus increasing the integrity and accuracy of the testing process. This implementation helps maintain the credibility of the drug testing program and to ensure that qualified and drug-free drivers are hired for transportation positions.

The introduction of oral fluid sample drug tests also addresses the need for faster results. In the transportation industry, timely hiring decisions are crucial, and employers require drug test results promptly to proceed with the hiring process efficiently. Oral fluid testing typically provides results within a shorter timeframe compared to urine or hair follicle tests. This expedites the overall hiring process and reduces the waiting period for both recruiters and driver applicants, allowing for more efficient candidate evaluation and selection.

By highlighting the benefits and explaining the testing process, recruiters can ensure candidates understand the reasoning behind the change and can make informed decisions. They can provide candidates with accurate information regarding the right to privacy, assuring them that their personal information and test results will be handled with the utmost confidentiality.

In protecting and prioritizing the privacy concerns of professional truckers and their right to privacy, transportation companies and testing facilities must adhere to strict protocols and regulations regarding the collection, handling, and storage of oral fluid samples. This includes implementing security procedures for sample collection, maintaining proper chain of custody documentation, and ensuring secure transportation of samples to the testing laboratories. By strictly following these guidelines, driver applicants can be confident that their privacy is respected throughout the drug testing process.

The DOT’s rule approval for oral fluid sample drug tests represents a significant advancement in drug testing practices for truck drivers and other transportation industries. This new method offers advantages such as increased privacy, prevention of cheating on urine testing, and faster results. In their role of assisting driver applicants, recruiters can educate candidates about the implementation of oral fluid sample drug tests, ensuring they are well informed and prepared. By maintaining a drug-free work environment through reliable and efficient drug testing procedures, this new ruling should contribute to the overall safety and well-being of drivers and the general public.


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Note. 1.  May 11, 2023 – The new regulations, which update 49 C.F.R. Part 40 (Part 40), will be effective June 1, 2023, but employers will have to wait to implement oral fluid testing until the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) certifies two laboratories capable of processing the tests. As of this date, the HHS has yet to certify any laboratories. As always, read and evaluate updates on the relevant government sites. See the links below for the HHS official listing of certified labs for oral-fluid testing:

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