What Is Random Drug Testing?

Categories: Drug Testing News

As a Nationwide Third Party Administrator (TPA), we receive numerous inquiries on the topic of random drug testing. Oftentimes random is referred to as “spot,” drug testing and it is a strong deterrent to drug users because it is conducted on an unannounced basis.

Employers should also have a drug free workplace policy which out lines the who, what, where, when, why and how of their drug testing program.

What is the best method for random testing?

Our best recommendation for a random drug testing program is to utilize a random selection process where everyone has an equal chance of being selected for the random test.  Some examples include: using a random-number table or a computer-based random number generator that’s traceable to a specific employee. The most important factor is to be sure to use a scientifically valid method to select employees for testing.

Employers who utilize a computerized random selection process will ensure that there is no bias and that all employees have an equal chance of being selected, regardless if individuals have been drug tested recently.

Implementing a random drug testing program may be a more effective method to detect and deter drug use in conjunction with pre-employment testing because employees are uncertain as to when they may be selected for testing.

Typically, most drug free workplace policies do not even outline the basics of a properly written policy and we find that many employers believe that merely having a statement that they are a drug free workplace is the policy.
It is important to be aware that a statement in your handbook does not constitute a policy and in fact, it may be opening your business/organization to potential liability.

How does the computerized method work?

Every employer can outline the parameters of their random drug testing program based on their specific drug free workplace policy. Their policy should set the number of employees to be tested and the frequency of such testing.

Privately owned non -regulated businesses can make that determination on a case by case basis. However, regulated companies such as those covered by CFR 49 part 40 must adhere to strict requirements regarding their random drug testing program. Below are the current random testing rates for businesses/individuals regulated or “covered” under CFR 49 Part 40.

The following chart outlines the annual minimum drug and alcohol random testing rates established within DOT Agencies and the USCG for 2018.
DOT Agency 2018 Random Drug Testing Rate 2018 Random Alcohol Testing Rates

The following chart outlines the annual minimum drug and alcohol random testing rates established within DOT Agencies and the USCG for 2018.

DOT Agency 2018 Random Drug Testing Rate 2018 Random Alcohol Testing Rate
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
25% 10%
Federal Aviation Administration
25% 10%
Federal Railroad Administration
25% – Covered Service 10% – Covered Service
50% – Maintenance of Way * 25% – Maintenance of Way *
Federal Transit Administration
25% 10%
Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration
50% N/A
United States Coast Guard


(now with the Dept. of Homeland Security

25% N/A

Why Random Drug Testing

With today’s climate regarding drug use and abuse, there is a high probability of drug use occurring and by implementing a drug free workplace policy that is comprehensive and includes both pre-employment and random drug testing will help reduce the number of employees working at your company that are doing illegal drugs.
This will translate into less accidents, sick days, better productivity, and a safer work environment for both employees and customers.

Ensuring Employee Safety

Some occupations are dangerous to perform even when person is not impaired. Employees using heavy equipment, or operating machinery that requires an employee to be alert and not under the influence. Pre-employment urine drug testing typically provides a detection window of approximately 3-5 days; therefore, an individual seeking employment may stop using just to get the job and start right back up again.
Random drug testing will help deter use and that the employee doesn’t work while under the influence, protecting themselves, other staff and the public from potential accidents.

Employers having both pre-employment and a random drug testing program can assist your organization to stand out with respect to safety. In general, people want to feel safe and they want an organization to be reliable, consistent and provide clear and concise standards. Implementing a random testing program may help demonstrate that you invested in employee safety and your customer’s safety and satisfaction. Furthermore, it can also help you attract higher quality candidates leading to better job satisfaction, higher morale and increased productivity.

For more information on random drug testing call us today at 800-221-4291