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What is Oral Fluid Testing & What Does It Mean for Employers?

The Department of Transportation (DOT) recently announced its new ruling on the allowance of oral fluid testing for your company’s drug testing program. What does this mean for your company? Will your policy need to be updated or completely overhauled? Let’s look at a few questions you may have regarding the DOT drug testing regulation changes and how ARCpoint Labs can help you navigate through the weeds to remain compliant.

What is oral fluid testing?

Oral fluid testing is a method of drug testing that uses a person’s saliva to test for evidence of drug use. The oral fluid sample is to be collected by a certified professional (who has been trained according to the DOT regulations) and tested at a DHHS-certified laboratory.

Though optional for employers in most situations, oral fluid testing for DOT will be an effective addition to the current urine testing requirement and could become a more convenient option in specific circumstances, such as reasonable suspicion and post-accident testing.

Oral fluid testing vs. urine testing

DOT regulations have been updated to improve your company’s drug testing processes and efficiency. Although urine testing has been the traditional method, it has limitations.

One major limitation is the window of detection. The window of detection (the time between drug use and when it can be detected) for urine testing is usually 6-8 hours after drug use. Therefore, an employer might want to use urine testing for pre-employment and random drug testing but use oral fluid testing for reasonable suspicion and post-accident testing, as the window of detection is almost immediate.

Oral Fluid Testing can solve the two most common problems which occur during a urine collection – cheating and shy bladder - a polite way of saying that a person can’t provide an adequate sample. Since the test collection is directly observed, the opportunity for the donor to cheat during the collection process is minimized. Oral fluid testing will also simplify the direct-observed collection process and eliminate some of the uncomfortable questions that arise when a direct-observed collection is required.

An important note is oral fluid testing must be available for transgender and non-binary individuals requiring direct-observed collections. This is a must and is not optional for employers.

Are oral fluid tests accurate?

Oral fluid drug testing is accurate and a great addition to a DOT testing program. Laboratories have been offering oral fluid testing in non-DOT tests for many years, and the technology is solid. Additionally, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) approved oral fluid testing on a federal level in 2019, so this isn’t new technology.

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What does the DOT’s oral fluid testing change mean for employers?

The new DOT rule means you now have more flexibility in drug testing. You can choose to stick with urine drug testing only except for transgender/non-binary observed collections, switch to using oral fluid drug testing only (not recommended, especially for pre-employment testing), or use a combination of both methods. Ultimately, the choice to add oral fluid testing and under what circumstances is yours to make.

You must develop a standing order of instructions for your collection sites with your company protocols. As you can imagine, there are many options and your ARCpoint Labs team can help you navigate these tricky waters. No matter what you decide, it is likely that you will need to make changes to your current policy. Trust DOT industry experts with over 20 years of experience. Trust ARCpoint Labs. We’ll keep you up to date with all the new regulations and provide specific information and guidance to keep you compliant and your business thriving.

Contact your local labs today for a FREE consultation.