Drug & Alcohol Regulations
RLS & Associates, Inc. (RLS) is one of the nation’s foremost authorities on the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Drug and Alcohol Regulations. For over eighteen years, RLS has been providing technical assistance, training, program design and implementation, and compliance reviews, assessments, and audits for state departments of transportation, municipalities, and transportation systems. Further, RLS designed FTA’s Drug and Alcohol Regulation Newsletter and continues to be a major contributor to this quarterly publication. RLS has authored several other publications, including the Best Practices Manual for Drug and Alcohol Regulations in Mass Transit, the Substance Abuse Management Course that was included in the core curriculum for the Transit Safety Institute, and the FTA Prescription and Over-the-Counter (Rx/OTC) Medications Toolkit.
RLS has had longstanding drug and alcohol technical assistance and training contracts with a number of states, including California, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, New York, Nevada, North Carolina, and West Virginia—providing a toll free number for technical assistance and conducting dozens of training classes on Substance Abuse Management, Reasonable Suspicion, Third Party Administrator Compliance, and more.
Technical Assistance & Training
RLS’ expertise in Drug and Alcohol regulations is well known throughout the nation due to its extensive roles in not only reviewing agency compliance and implementing procedures, but also in the actual development of the FTA Implementation guidelines. Additionally, RLS created, produced, and distributed a nationally acclaimed quarterly newsletter to approximately 4,500 organizations affected by FTA Drug & Alcohol Regulations (D&A). Once FTA assumed production of the newsletter in-house, RLS continued to write many of the articles for each edition, which continues today. Articles describe the various requirements of these rules, regulatory changes, FTA interpretations, and how to implement procedures to achieve compliance.
RLS has provided technical assistance, training, and other support to 49 State Departments of Transportation (DOTs) and all U.S. territories for the implementation and maintenance of each state’s on-going drug and alcohol training program. Training classes may include, but are not limited to Drug and Alcohol Program Management, Prescription and Over-the-Counter Medication Use, Reasonable Suspicion, Urine Collection Technician Qualification, Fitness-for-Duty, Emerging Drugs, and Third Party Administrator training, as well as training for collection site oversight. Training takes place in all forms, from classroom presentations and activities to online learnings and self-assessments. RLS also provides technical assistance to DOTs in the preparation for, and follow-up to FTA D&A audits.
Drug and Alcohol MIS Report Reviews for State DOT Subrecipients
The Department of Transportation (DOT) requires organizations to submit Management Information System (MIS) reports, which are statistical data compiled by organizations based on their employee drug and alcohol testing. MIS report requirements vary depending on the organization’s mode of transportation (FMCSA, FAA, FTA, FRA PHMSA, and USCG). FTA Sections 5307, 5309, and 5311-funded grantees and/or State DOTs and their subrecipients must submit Drug and Alcohol MIS reports in accordance with the FTA regulation 49 CFR Part 655. Under this regulation, covered employees are those who perform revenue vehicle operations; revenue vehicle and equipment maintenance; revenue vehicle control or dispatch (optional); Commercial Driver’s License non-revenue vehicle operation; or armed security duties. The types of drug tests included in the MIS reports are Pre-employment, random, reasonable suspicion, post-accident, return-to-duty, and follow up; the test for alcohol are pre-employment (optional), random, reasonable suspicion, post-accident, return-to-duty, and follow up.
RLS staff members are considered experts in the field of FTA’s drug and alcohol program requirements and as such are committed to working with State DOT Subrecipients to ensure the proper implementation, documentation, and reporting of drug and alcohol testing results.
Policy Development & Reviews
RLS’ seeks to contribute to the betterment of its clients’ communities. As such, RLS devotes itself to ensuring its clients’ policies comply with FTA drug and alcohol regulations in ways that best suit its clients’ individual needs. Such policies help protect communities against the effects of harmful substance use and uphold the rights of employees.
FTA-compliant drug and alcohol policies declare that the unlawful manufacture, distribution, dispense, possession, or use of controlled substances or misuse of alcohol is prohibited for all employees of FTA grant recipients. These policies offer guidelines for drug and alcohol testing and reporting that are intended to ensure such actions are carried out in an effective, efficient, and legal manner. RLS experts in drug and alcohol regulations conduct thorough compliance reviews of agency’s drug and alcohol policies and provide documentation of its findings. RLS then provides its clients with suggestions and detailed implementation plans for any gaps in compliance or potential areas for improvement.
On-Site Compliance Reviews
RLS is the leading drug and alcohol compliance review consulting firm in the nation, having conducted hundreds of reviews for the majority of states across the nation. RLS has a proven method of administering drug and alcohol compliance reviews through questionnaires, records/equipment review, and interviewing public transportation providers, collection facilities, and service agents.
Each RLS Compliance Review assesses how and to what extent an agency’s management is in compliance with Federal and State laws, rules, requirements, and regulations. When conducting drug and alcohol compliance reviews for FTA funding recipients, RLS reviews each drug and alcohol testing program to ensure its compliance with FTA regulations 49 CFR Part 655 (Prevention of Alcohol Misuses and Prohibited Drug Use in Transit Operations) and Part 40 (Procedures for Transportation Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing Programs). Each review is conducted with the goal of improving an agency’s compliance with applicable regulations, while strengthening management’s abilities in those areas.
Federal Audit Support / Technical Assistance
RLS strives to protect its clients from current and potential problems that might keep them from carrying out their jobs in ways that best suit the needs of their communities and themselves. Federal audits are intended to protect laws and best practices, and RLS wants to ensure its clients are prepared for such audit. As part of its drug and alcohol review process, RLS documents current policies and procedures and then provides clients with the knowledge and resources necessary to assess the compliance of their own practices and to take necessary corrective action. RLS offers courses that provide a comprehensive overview of Federal regulations, including all changes and relevant interpretations that have occurred since the regulations were first published. The course then describes the FTA compliance audit process—recommending best ways to prepare, describing common problems transit systems experience with their program implementation, suggesting alternative ways to address common issues, and presenting a detailed compliance checklist and a recordkeeping template with associated forms.
Fitness for Duty & Rx/OTC Program / Policy
Illegal or not, medications have significant effects that potentially put users and those around them at risk. Because of the safety risk, FTA drug and alcohol regulations outline policies specifically for safety-sensitive employees. Safety-sensitive employees are those who carry out operations of mass transit service, which include vehicle operators, security personnel, as well as all those transit employees who are required to hold a Commercial Driver’s License. RLS’ role is to provide its clients with technical assistance and training to help address these safety risks issues.
Drug and alcohol use is monitored by FTA regulated testing, but even legal drug use can cause major safety risks. RLS has developed model Fitness for Duty and Rx/OTC (prescription and Over-the-Counter medications) policies that are used by FTA subrecipients throughout the country and has helped clients implement and maintain Fitness for Duty & Rx/OTC Programs. Although the policies and procedures offered in these programs do not constitute FTA regulations, they promote risk management and healthy living and are therefore deemed vital to the success and safety of the traveling public. RLS guides agencies through the process of establishing key personnel/task teams, employee representation, medical advisors, and legal teams; developing action plans; and then making sure it gets off the ground and has an effective internal review process.
Service Agent Monitoring: Collection Site, MRO, SAP, TPA
A critical part of any review process is to review the reviewers. Those service agents responsible for conducting and processing the employee drug and alcohol tests must be monitored to ensure their compliance with all regulations. A Third Party Administrator (TPA) is a service provider in charge of coordinating the processes of collecting the specimens and breath alcohol testing at the collection site, testing in the laboratory, and then reviewing and reporting the results to the Medical Review Officer (MRO). The MROs are licensed physicians responsible for reviewing and evaluating the tests. MROs are required for testing Federal Agency employees and DOT testing programs, but it is considered best practice to use and MRO for any workplace drug testing. Substance Abuse Professionals (SAP) are those qualified to evaluate employees who violate drug and alcohol regulations. It is their responsibility to make recommendations for education, treatment, follow-up testing, and aftercare.
During the review process, RLS staff members make sure their clients have all these entities in place to conduct testing; affirm that these service agents meet all qualification requirements; review how the service agents fulfill their respective roles; and document suggestions for any area of improvement or failure to comply with all federal and state regulations.
Urine Collector Qualification Training & Proficiency Demonstrations
To ensure employee rights are upheld and legal protocol is followed, RLS staff carefully review the qualifications and conduct of their clients’ urine collectors, checking to see whether all 49CFR Part 40.33 regulations are met. Under this regulation, to be a collector, one must have up-to-date knowledge of the current “DOT Urine Specimen Collection Procedures Guidelines” as well as the DOT agency regulations applicable to the employer for whom you conduct the collections. Collectors must also have completed training on the necessary collection steps, dealing with problematic specimen or situations, and maintaining the integrity of the process. Finally, collectors must successfully complete five mock collections and then be monitored and evaluated by a qualified collector.
Russ Parish Associate Mr. Russ Parish works out of the RLS Arkansas Office and manages State RTAP projects for New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Ohio, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. He is also a member of the RLS Drug and Alcohol Compliance Monitoring team. An accomplished and...
Robbie L. Sarles President Ms. Robbie Sarles, President, and founder of RLS & Associates, Inc., has worked over 39 years in the transit industry in progressively responsible positions, in both public and private sectors. Since founding RLS in 1987 in Dayton, Ohio,...
Rich GarrityDirector of Compliance Initiatives Mr. Rich Garrity is located in the RLS Wilmington, North Carolina office. He has over 40 years of experience in transit and paratransit planning, operations and management evaluation, coordinated...
Sean OswaldChief of Operations/Director of Drug & Alcohol Initiatives Mr. Sean Oswald is located in the Dayton Headquarters. He joined RLS in 2011, bringing over five years of GIS analysis, management, and training experience. Building on that...
Gregory (Greg) HarnettSenior AssociateMr. Greg Harnett works in the Dayton headquarters and serves as a lead reviewer on the RLS compliance team. He is a key contributor to the Federal Transit Administration’s Comprehensive Oversight Review and Technical...
Lucy Bowman (Sherman)AssociateMs. Lucy Bowman (Sherman) is located in the Dayton Headquarters. She provides support for RLS’ survey and data collection projects and is a Lead Drug and Alcohol Reviewer. She is also a certified instructor for Passenger Assistance...
Victoria (Vicky) WarnerSenior AssociateMs. Vicky Warner is located in the RLS Columbus, Indiana Office where she is responsible for office administration and daily operations. She is an experienced transit manager and trainer, with over 24 years of...
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