- The Department of Transportation approved a change to drug testing that will now allow employers to include oral fluid testing. The rule cannot be enacted, however, until laboratories are certified to offer the service.
- The addition will become available June 1, though the expansion ultimately depends on the Health and Human Services Department certifying at least two laboratories, the rule said. As of May 2, HHS had not yet certified any labs for oral fluid testing.
- The expanded option and will help employers to “combat employee cheating on urine drug tests and provide a less intrusive means of achieving the safety goals of the program,” the department said. Employees would not get a choice in which test they receive, according to the new rule.
While mouth swabs give carriers more options when conducting drug tests, it’s unclear whether the new rule will end up lowering costs.
The department previously listed a range for oral fluid tests as $10 to $20 less than a $50 urine testing process. But in its final rule, the government found that most commentators on this issue reported “the cost of an oral fluid test would be more expensive than a urine test.” That’s in part because oral fluid test kits can expire 12 months after manufacturing, whereas urine tests don’t expire.
The Carolina Drug & Alcohol Testing Services, for example, said urine testing costs a client $50 to $60, while an oral fluid test can be as much as $60 to $75.
Another factor in costs is whether an employee requests split specimen drug testing, where a sample is divided in two. That would require not just one certified lab, but two. It’s in place for worker protection in case an employee wants a second opinion involving a positive result.
Nonetheless, trucking groups suggested costs would still decrease.
“From the cost perspective, oral fluid testing could lessen the financial cost of drug testing for trucking companies,” the Truckload Carriers Association said. “For trucking companies, the savings would be significant, as they are required to test every new, incoming driver, as well as half of their drivers at random annually.”
The change doesn’t apply to hair testing, which several carriers are still pushing, saying it’s more effective at detecting drug use, including marijuana.
Prominent groups such as the American Trucking Associations, The Trucking Alliance and the TCA have voiced interest in allowing hair testing for drugs. In contrast, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association argued against such a change, questioning how accurate the results would be.