Technical Assistance

FTA Drug and Alcohol Regulation Updates
Issue 11, page 7

Mobile Collectors - Problems to Avoid

Many transit systems and state consortia use mobile collectors to collect urine and breath specimens for the FTA drug and alcohol testing program.   The mobile collectors are often associated with or under contract to third party administrators who provide all the testing services as part of a turnkey package.  The mobile collectors are often thought of as an economical method for obtaining collection services in areas or situations that have limited collection site alternatives.  In most cases, mobile collectors notify the transit system when they will be on-site for random test collections.  Many transit systems and statewide consortia find this arrangement convenient as the mobile collector takes over many of the administrative responsibilities associated with the program. 

In most cases, mobile collectors provide a collection service that is compliant with the FTA drug and alcohol testing regulations.  However, the policies and practices of mobile collectors must be carefully monitored by FTA-regulated employers.  A primary area of concern  is the predictability and pattern of testing that is often characteristic of mobile collectors.  To economically provide testing services, mobile collectors attempt to schedule collections in the most cost-efficient manner possible.  Subsequently, collectors often ride a circuit from transit system to transit system and patterns develop. 

For example, many transit systems have indicated that their mobile collectors always arrive on site in the mid-morning while neighboring systems expect mid-afternoon arrivals.  The timing for arrivals is also dependent on how far away the transit system is from the mobile collector’s base of operations.  Systems that are far away routinely have arrivals scheduled in the late afternoon. 

For many, efficiency also dictates that all a transit system’s random tests for a testing period will be conducted on the same day, often with employees waiting in line to provide their specimens.  As a result, a pattern of random testing is evident, making the testing predictable, tests are not spread throughout the testing period, day, or week, and testing is not performed in the early mornings, late evenings, weekends or other times when safety-sensitive functions are being performed, but the mobile collector is not available.

Additionally, mobile collectors that are not in close proximity to the transit system can not typically respond in a timely manner for post-accident or reasonable suspicion tests.  In both of these situations, an incident triggers the need for a test and the transit system must respond immediately.  In instances where mobile collectors cover large geographic areas, they may be hours away from the site and unable to respond.   Some mobile collectors have, erroneously, indicated that as long as they get to the site within eight hours for the alcohol test and thirty-two hours for the drug test, they are meeting the requirements for the post-accident and reasonable suspicion test. 

All collections must be performed in a discrete manner that protects the privacy and personal integrity of the individuals being tested.   The mobile collectors should use discretion when choosing locations for administering the tests;  public or highly visible places such as mall parking lots should be avoided.  Likewise, the collectors should take care not to announce that testing is being conducted by displaying inappropriate signage or other advertising at the time or location of testing.

Use of Non-DOT Chain of Custody Forms

     The inadvertent use of a non-DOT Drug Test Custody and Control Form is not necessarily a fatal flaw.  If the Medical Review Officer determines that the form meets the chain of custody requirements, the MRO can accept the form in lieu of the Federal DOT form.  The MRO must determine that the form accurately traces the custody of the specimen and provides a signature of the donor on a copy that is sent to the MRO.  Please note that  this interpretation provided by the USDOT Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy and Compliance clarifies and supercedes the one that was provided in the article “Use of Correct Form” printed on page 5 of Issue 9 of the Updates.  That article incorrectly stated that the use of non-DOT forms would not be considered valid for FTA tests.

Where To Find?.....

Part 40 Amendments, Con’t.

July 16, 1996
Federal Register Vol.61
Pages 37015-37017
Primary Topic:  Use of Labs Outside the U.S.

July 17, 1996
Federal Register Vol.61
Pages 37222-37224
Primary Topic:  Expansion of SAP Definition

July 19, 1996
Federal Register Vol.61
Pages 37693-37700
Primary Topic:  Insufficient Specimen

November 25, 1998
Federal Register Vol. 63
Pages 65128-65129
Primary Topic:  Opiate Threshold












The information presented on this page should be used to update Chapter 9 of the Implementation Guidelines.


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