EMA Files Comments in Support of Oral Fluid Drug Testing for CDL Drivers

On April 29, 2022, EMA filed comments in support of a proposed rulemaking by the Department of Transportation’s Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy and Compliance that would introduce an oral fluid drug test as an alternative to the current urine specimen test for CDL drivers. The oral fluid test would not replace the urine specimen test but only provide an alternative test to be used at an employer’s discretion. EMA expressed concern that urine specimen drug testing is far too easy to beat since drivers are not under direct observation for privacy reasons except under a few narrow exceptions. As a result, drug test cheating is widespread.

EMA cited a recent study finding the three most common methods of drug test cheating were dilution, substitution, and adulteration. Of those providing urine samples in the study, 58m percent who used dilution achieved a 71 percent success rate. The same study found that 25 percent of urine donors used substitution, with a 100 percent success rate. Finally, approximately 17 percent of participants in the study used adulteration to defeat urine testing, with a 75 percent success rate.

Moreover, EMA noted that the U.S. DOT protocols currently in place to prevent drivers from defeating drug tests are not adequate given that cheating is so widespread. The inherent weakness with urine specimen testing is it cannot be directly observed at all times due to privacy concerns. Without direct observation and full custody of the specimen by the test giver, the risk for cheating by dilution, substitution or adulteration will remain high.

EMA commented it supports oral fluid testing because it is inexpensive and administered by a simple oral swab. Specimens can detect drug use over the preceding 24 hours which is uniquely suited for reasonable suspicion and post-accident testing. Oral fluid specimens can be collected in less than five minutes, anywhere, at any time, including in the workplace or at an accident site. A special collection facility or extensive collection site preparation is not required. Tampering with the specimen is virtually impossible since the oral swab never leaves the custody and control of the tester.

Additionally, there is no time lost to rescheduling from attempts by drivers to evade urine testing by claiming shy bladder. All these benefits reduce the amount of time an employee is away from the job for drug testing which offers significant cost savings for the employer. EMA said that the introduction of oral fluid testing keeps unsafe drivers off the road, provide employers with flexibility in test method selection, lower test costs and reduces the ability of employees to subvert testing. EMA comments on the oral fluid test can be found here.