On November 13, 2017, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) published a final rule making significant changes to 49 Code of Federal Regulations Part 40, which affects employers administering drug tests in the transportation industry. The final rule states that its purpose is to remain current with the changes made to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’s Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing Programs, which were announced in early 2017.

The DOT’s new rule adds hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxycodone, and oxymorphone to its drug testing panel. It also adds methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA) as an initial test analyte and removes methylenedioxyethylamphetamine (MDEA) as a confirmatory test analyte.

The revised regulations additionally eliminate the requirement that employers submit blind specimens for testing. The DOT says that it has made this change to relieve costs and administrative burdens for employers. It also found that blind specimens are no longer necessary in light of improved testing accuracy since the blind sample testing requirement was first imposed at the inception of the DOT’s drug testing program.

The new regulations reflect, in part, the DOT’s effort to combat the opioid epidemic confronting the country—particularly in relation to individuals in safety-sensitive positions regulated by the DOT. In announcing the final rule, Secretary Elaine L. Chao explained, “The ability to test for a broader range of opioids will advance transportation safety significantly and provide another deterrence to opioid abuse, which will better protect the public and ultimately save lives.”

Employers with drug testing policies subject to DOT regulation may want to take steps now to conform their policies to the new requirements, which will take effect on January 1, 2018.