Follow up testing is mandated by DOT for regulated companies. Follow-up testing is a series of unannounced tests after a return-to-duty test is completed.
The number of follow-up tests is determined by the employee’s substance abuse professional or SAP. Follow-up tests are in addition to other drug tests like random drug testing.
Unplanned or unannounced drug tests are a great deterrent to cheating a drug test. Unannounced drug tests tend to yield a higher positivity rate than other types of drug tests.
DOT Follow-Up Drug and Alcohol Testing: An Overview
The follow-up testing process begins once an employee has completed the Return-to-Duty process. The follow-up testing program consists of at least six unannounced drug and/or alcohol tests conducted over a 12-month period and can last as long as five years. The tests are conducted under direct observation of a collector (same sex collector goes into the restroom with the donor), and the employee must provide a urine sample and sometimes a breath alcohol test.
The RTD process is triggered when an employee tests positive for drugs or alcohol during a DOT-mandated drug or alcohol test, or refuses such a test.
DOT Follow-Up Drug and Alcohol Testing Requirements
DOT follow-up drug and alcohol testing involves several requirements. The Return-to-Duty and Follow Up process looks like this:
1. Notification: When an employee tests positive for drugs or alcohol, the employer must notify the employee in writing of the positive test result and explain the consequences of a positive test result.
2. Referral to a Substance Abuse Professional (SAP): The employer must refer the employee to a SAP, who will conduct an assessment and determine whether the employee needs treatment for drug or alcohol use.
3. Treatment: If the SAP determines that the employee needs treatment, the employee must receive the necessary treatment.
4. Follow-up testing plan: The SAP will develop a follow-up testing plan for the employee, which will include at least six unannounced drug and/or alcohol tests conducted over a 12-month period. The follow-up testing plan may last as long as 5 years.
5. Direct observation testing: All follow-up drug and alcohol tests must be conducted under direct observation by a same-sex collector.
6. Timeframe: The employee must proceed immediately for testing once notified by the employer.
7. Record keeping: The employer must maintain records of all follow-up drug and alcohol tests, including the date of the test, the results of the test, and any other relevant information.
The employer must ensure that the employee is not allowed to perform safety-sensitive duties until the employee has completed the Return-to-Duty process, has been cleared for a Return-to-Duty test by a SAP, and the RTD test is negative.
Once the RTD test is complete, the employer or the employer’s service agent reports the negative result to the FMCSA Clearinghouse.
DOT Follow-Up Drug and Alcohol Testing
Section 40.309 of the DOT’s drug and alcohol testing regulations outlines the requirements for follow-up testing. The section specifies that when an employee tests positive for drugs or alcohol, the employer must ensure that the employee is evaluated by a SAP and follows the SAP’s recommendations for follow-up testing.
Section 40.309 also requires that the follow-up testing program include at least six unannounced drug and/or alcohol tests conducted over a 12-month period. The tests must be conducted under the direct observation of a collector, and the employee must provide a urine sample within a specific time frame.
The section also requires that the employer maintain records of all follow-up drug and alcohol tests, including the date of the test, the results of the test, and any other relevant information. The employer must ensure that the employee is not allowed to perform safety-sensitive duties until the employee has completed the follow-up testing program and has been cleared to return to duty by a SAP.
Once the Follow Up Testing plan is complete, the employer enters that information into the FMCSA Clearinghouse.
If the Employee Changes Employers
The requirements of the SAP’s follow‐up testing plan “follow the employee” to subsequent employers or through breaks in service.
Example 1 to paragraph (e): The employee returns to duty with Employer A. Two months afterward, after completing the first two of six follow‐up tests required by the SAP’s plan, the employee quits his job with Employer A and begins to work in a similar position for Employer B. The employee remains obligated to complete the four additional tests during the next 10 months of safety‐sensitive duty, and Employer B is responsible for ensuring that the employee does so. Employer B learns of this obligation through the inquiry it makes under §40.25.
Example 2 to paragraph (e): The employee returns to duty with Employer A. Three months later, after the employee completes the first two of six follow‐up tests required by the SAP’s plan, Employer A lays the employee off for economic or seasonal employment reasons. Four months later, Employer A recalls the employee. Employer A must ensure that the employee completes the remaining four follow‐up tests during the next nine months.