Question 1

Question: What happens if a random drug test result is reported as canceled, due to the specimen leaking in transit? Do I test an employee who is designated as an “alternate” on my random selection list to make up for the canceled test?

Answer: A canceled test is neither positive nor negative and does not count toward meeting the FTA minimum annual random percentages. However, an “alternate” can only be used when a selected employee is unable to be tested throughout the entire testing period (month, quarter, etc.). In this scenario, the random test was performed and you did receive a result. Simply file the canceled test result in your random testing folder with your other random test results for that period. Subsequent testing periods can be adjusted to account for the canceled test, if needed. As a best practice, random selections should be generated in a manner that allows room for occasional canceled tests. This means that you, or your service agent, should slightly “over-generate” random selections to ensure that you are able to meet at least the minimum annual testing percentages required by FTA.

Question 2

Question: What happens when an employee does not produce a sufficient amount of urine for a drug test?

Answer: A federal drug test requires a minimum of 45mL of urine collected from one single void.   When a donor (applicant or employee) presents a specimen to the collector that is less than 45mL, the following must occur:

  1. The collector must discard the insufficient specimen (unless it is outside of normal temperature range or shows signs of tampering).
  2. In the remarks section of the CCF, the collector must record the time the insufficient specimen was collected and explain to the donor that the “shy bladder procedures” begin at this point.  The donor is not permitted to leave the collection site and must be taken to a supervised waiting area, preferably separated from others.
  3. The donor must be offered fluid in measured amounts.  (The fluid does not need to be water; it can be juice, soda, coffee, etc.). The donor is not required to drink the fluid.
  4. During the waiting period, the collector must offer the donor no more than 40 oz. of fluid, spread reasonably over a period of no more than 3 hours.
  5. In the remarks section of the CCF, the collector must indicate the amount of fluid and any additional unsuccessful attempts to collect 45mL of urine from the donor.
  6. If 3 hours pass and the donor has not produced a sufficient amount of urine, the shy bladder waiting period ends.
  7. The collector must notify the DER (Drug & Alcohol Program Manager) and provide the DER with a copy of the CCF, which includes the notations regarding the attempts made and the amount of fluid provided to the donor.
  8. The DER must arrange for the employee to be medically evaluated within 5 business days, by a licensed physician who is acceptable to the Medical Review Officer.  The remarks documented on the CCF provide vital information to the physician during the medical evaluation.
  9. If the physician is unable to determine a legitimate medical explanation for the donor’s failure to produce a sufficient specimen, the test deemed as a “refusal to test”, which holds the same consequence as a verified positive drug test result.

Question 3

Question: What should I be using as the “Employee ID” on the drug and alcohol testing paperwork?

Answer: Each FTA-covered employee needs to be assigned a unique “Employee ID”, which the employer will use as an employee identifier (in addition to the employee’s name) in their random testing pool and on the drug and alcohol testing forms.   The employer can create any unique Employee ID they choose, however FTA-covered employers should:

  1. Avoid using the employee’s full Social Security Number as their Employee ID.  To protect your employees from identity theft, use a partial SSN or perhaps a combination of partial SSN and initials/date of hire.
  2. Avoid using the employee’s driver’s license number as their Employee ID.   A great deal of confusion began in January when the FMCSA Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse was implemented, because FMCSA requires the use of the donor’s CDL number as their “Employee ID”.   However, it’s important to remember that FTA-covered employees are not subject to the FMCSA Clearinghouse.  Additionally, in the transit world, there are other positions beyond operators that are safety-sensitive, therefore not all FTA-covered employees will have a CDL.   Collectors may insist that a driver’s license number be used due to their failure to understand the difference between FTA and FMCSA regulations.  To help reduce confusion, always use
    1. Testing Notification Form to relay your chosen Employee ID to the collector and alcohol testing personnel (see sample Testing Notification Form attached).

Question 4

Question:   My agency is moving to a “paperless” record-keeping system.  Are we permitted to maintain our DOT drug and alcohol testing records in an electronic format?

Answer:  Neither the USDOT nor FTA regulations prohibit you from storing your drug and alcohol testing records in electronic form.  HOWEVER, there are several things you should consider when making the decision to move testing records into an electronic storage system:

  1. During the FTA Drug and Alcohol Program Audit and the FDOT Triennial Review, auditors will need to inspect documents in their paper form.  So it’s best to maintain the current calendar year’s testing records and the prior calendar year’s testing records in paper form, so you can readily provide tangible documents to the auditors.
  2. When you move records to an electronic format, you must still ensure that access to the testing records is limited only to the Drug and Alcohol Program Manager and Designated Employer Representative(s) and that the DOT testing records are maintained separately from NON-DOT testing records (if NON DOT testing is applicable to your agency).
  3. FTA has minimum retention periods of 1, 2, 3 and 5 years, depending on the document type.  Most employers maintain records for at least 5 years to ensure that minimums are being met.  It may be wise to use the FTA minimum retention periods as a guide to when it’s appropriate to safely convert a paper document to long-term electronic storage.   The specific retention periods are outlined in 49 CFR Part 655.71

Supplemental information: 

Question 5

Question:  An employee who tested positive for cocaine has requested a split specimen test.  Do I wait to remove her from safety-sensitive duty until we receive the results of the split specimen test?

Answer: No, you must not wait for the results of the split specimen test.  The positive drug test result you received is a verified result, therefore you must immediately remove the employee from safety-sensitive duty.   She must remain out of safety-sensitive duty while her split specimen (“B” bottle) is analyzed.   In the unlikely event that the “B bottle” test fails to reconfirm the “A bottle” test, follow the instructions provided to you by the MRO.

Question 6

Question: What does it mean when the Medical Review Officer reports a drug test result as “Negative- Dilute”?

Answer: A “Negative-Dilute” result means that the laboratory did not detect the presence of a prohibited drug, but the urine specimen had lower than normal levels of creatinine and specific gravity. There are essentially two types of “Negative-Dilute” results. In training we refer to them as “dilute” and “super dilute”. The first type of dilute is commonly produced by a well-hydrated individual. However, it can also occur when a donor is attempting to mask their use of a prohibited substance by consuming a lot of water prior to testing. Therefore, the USDOT rule authorizes employers to retest the employee upon receipt of this type of negative-dilute result. An employer’s policy must address how the dilute result will be handled (retest/not retest) and the policy must be followed consistently. Note: The policy templates prepared by FDOT include the provision for retesting only when the reason for testing is pre-employment or random.

The second type of dilute, which we refer to in training as a “super dilute” REQUIRES a retest using direct observation collection procedures. The MRO will provide retesting instructions when reporting this type of “super” dilute result. Reference: 49 CFR Part 40.155.

Question 7

Question: We know that an employee is covered by the FTA drug and alcohol testing rule if they perform, or could be called upon to perform, safety-sensitive functions as defined by FTA. Can you clarify what is meant by “could be called upon”?

Answer: The best way to determine if an employee is covered by the rule is to review the actual job duties each individual employee may be asked to perform. The individual’s job title is not relevant. As an example, an employee holding the job title of “Transit Supervisor” does not automatically mean that they are a safety-sensitive employee. If it’s likely that the Transit Supervisor will be called upon to operate a vehicle as part of his/her job duties, you would classify him/her as safety-sensitive. On the other hand, if an Executive Director would possibly be called upon to operate a vehicle during an emergency hurricane evacuation, you would not classify him/her as safety-sensitive because the expectation is not part of their normal job duties. (Note: I’ve used “operating a vehicle” in my examples but this same premise applies to all functions below).

  1. Operating a public transportation vehicle in or out of service
  2. Operating an ancillary vehicle which requires a CDL to operate
  3. Controlling dispatch or movement of a public transportation vehicle
  4. Performing maintenance on a public transportation vehicle or equipment used in public transportation
  5. Carrying a firearm as part of transit security detail.

Question 8

Question: Does the FTA post-accident drug and alcohol testing rule apply to Road Supervisors involved in accidents while driving their “supervisor vehicle”, for example a Ford Explorer, Chevy Trailblazer or similar SUV?

Answer: No. Post-accident drug and alcohol testing thresholds apply to events involving the operation of public transportation vehicles (aka revenue service vehicles).

However, there is a caveat: When a Road Supervisor’s vehicle is being used temporarily to transport passengers, the vehicle becomes a public transportation vehicle during this specific period of time. If an accident occurs during this time, the employer would apply the same testing thresholds as they would for a public transportation vehicle (ref. 49 CFR Part 655.4)

Question 9

Question: Our agency has suspended in-person training due to COVID-19. However we’d like to continue to offer training to supervisors and other company officials on reasonable suspicion testing. Are you aware of a resource for online training that meets the FTA training requirement for this topic area?

Answer: Yes! The National Rural Transit Assistance Program (RTAP) has a free online course in their eLearning program that meets the minimum 2-hour FTA training requirement per 655.14(b)(2). The course is called “Reasonable Suspicion Training for Supervisors” and can be accessed from the National RTAP website.