Shared Mobility FAQs Related to the FTA Drug and Alcohol Program
Q: When do the Drug and Alcohol rules apply?
A: The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Drug and Alcohol regulation (49 CFR part 655) provides that the rule applies to recipients and subrecipients of Urbanized Area (§ 5307), Capital Investment Grant (§ 5309) and Rural Area (§ 5311) funds, as well as their contractors and subcontractors. Generally, a ridesourcing company would be a contractor. Under the rule, a contractor is any entity providing a safety-sensitive function for a recipient or subrecipient. The contract may be a written or informal arrangement "that reflects an ongoing relationship between the parties."
Q: Does the testing requirement apply to employees and independent drivers of contractors not otherwise providing public transportation?
A: Yes. The Drug and Alcohol regulation (49 CFR part 655) extends the controlled substance and alcohol testing requirement to employees of contractors performing a safety-sensitive function. This includes the independent drivers of a ridesourcing company contracting with a public transportation agency. FTA has consistently interpreted the regulation (49 CFR part 655) to include contractors who do not directly engage in public transportation operations, including taxicab operators if the taxicab exception does not apply. The exception provides: by 49 CFR part 655, the Drug and Alcohol testing rules apply when the transit provider enters a contract with one or more entities to provide taxi service. The restrictions do not apply when the patron selects the taxi company that provides the transit service. This policy recognizes the practical difficulty of administering a Drug and Alcohol testing program to entities that only incidentally provide taxi service on behalf of a public transit agency. 66 FR 41996, August 9, 2001.
Q: If a recipient funds its public transportation contracts with local dollars, do the DOT Drug and Alcohol testing rules apply?
A: Yes. The Drug and Alcohol regulation (49 CFR part 655) extends to recipients and subrecipients of Urbanized Area (§ 5307), Capital Investment Grant (§ 5309) and Rural Area (§ 5311) funds, as well as their contractors and subcontractors, regardless of the particular source of funds for a contract.
Q: Are private companies like ridesourcing companies exempt from DOT Drug and Alcohol testing requirements?
A: No. Private companies have no categorical exemption from the controlled substance and alcohol testing requirement. Recipients of Urbanized Area (§ 5307), Capital Investment Grant (§ 5309) and Rural Area (§ 5311) funds must conduct Drug and Alcohol testing of all employees or contractors performing safety-sensitive functions. Ridesourcing companies are subject to the testing requirement to the extent that they are a recipient contractor and perform a safety-sensitive function. However, ridesourcing companies may qualify for the taxicab exception.
Q: What is the taxicab exception, and when does it apply?
A: When a public transit passenger randomly chooses from among several taxicab companies providing service, the testing regulations do not apply. The rationale for this is the practical difficulty of trying to administer a Drug and Alcohol testing program in connection with multiple companies. An example of this scenario is a guaranteed ride home program. The transit agency contracts with multiple (two or more) taxicab companies in the area, and a passenger may choose which taxicab company to contact to get a ride home. Note that a transit passenger must choose which taxicab service to use each time they take a ride. A blanket selection of a particular company for all rides during a given timeframe does not meet the exception.
Q: When does the taxicab exception not apply?
A: The taxicab exception does not apply when a passenger does not choose the taxicab company providing the service. For example, many Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) paratransit agencies contract with taxicab companies and other entities to provide ADA paratransit service to ambulatory passengers. When the ADA paratransit provider (not the passenger) contacts the taxicab company to schedule the ride, the Drug and Alcohol rules apply to the taxicab company providing the service. Similarly, if a public transit agency provides vouchers to passengers to use for one taxicab company, or if the passenger must select one company to deliver all their rides during a given timeframe, the passenger does not have a choice of which company to contact, so the Drug and Alcohol rules apply.
Q: Does the taxicab exception apply to ridesourcing companies?
A: It depends. The taxicab exception is the same for ridesourcing companies when a public transit agency has contractual or other arrangements with two or more ridesourcing companies or taxicab companies to provide a specific service or type of service public transit passenger chooses among the providers. In this case, the public transit agency would have to contract with at least two ridesourcing companies and/or taxicab companies to ensure the passenger chooses which provider to contact for a ride. Note that the taxicab exception requires that a passenger have a choice of ride providers each time they need a ride. If a recipient contracts with only one ridesourcing company and no taxicab companies, the taxicab exception would not apply. The ridesourcing company’s drivers would be subject to Drug and Alcohol testing.
There may be some situations in which a public transit agency contracts with two or more ridesourcing companies and one or more taxicab companies to ensure the service is available for all passengers. For example, the taxicab company may be the only contractor with accessible vehicles or the only contractor able to schedule trips over the phone or accept cash payments from passengers. While some passengers may have only one choice, this does not change the fact that many passengers will have more than one choice so the taxicab exception will apply to all the providers.
Q: Are all ridesourcing company employees that contract with a transit agency subject to FTA Drug and Alcohol testing?
A: It depends. The employees of a ridesourcing company are subject to the FTA Drug and Alcohol testing requirement only to the extent they perform an FTA-defined safety-sensitive function for the covered transit employer. However, ridesourcing companies may qualify for the taxicab exception if multiple ridesourcing companies or taxicab companies contract with the transit agency.
The taxicab exception does not apply when the transit agency contracts with only one ridesourcing company and no taxicab companies. The ridesourcing company could limit the number of drivers subject to the rule by limiting the pool of drivers eligible to provide service for the public transit contract. The ridesourcing company and the transit agency would determine how many drivers would be necessary to provide timely service. In that case, only those drivers identified as eligible to drive for the public transit contract would be subject to FTA’s Drug and Alcohol testing requirements.
Q: If my project is funded with Public Transportation Innovation (§ 5312) research funds, does the Drug and Alcohol testing requirement apply?
A: No. If the project is funded with research dollars, the law permits the Secretary to prescribe terms and conditions for the grant award. FTA has determined the Drug and Alcohol rules do not apply to these funds, even if the recipient of Public Transportation Innovation (§ 5312) research funds is also a recipient of Urbanized Area (§ 5307), Capital Investment Grant (§ 5309) or Rural Area (§ 5311) funds.
Q: Do the Drug and Alcohol rules apply to pilot programs that do not use FTA funds?
A: Yes. Suppose a recipient of section 5307, 5309 or 5311 funds subsidizes ridesourcing services, and the taxicab exception does not apply. In that case, the transit agency must either design the service such that the taxicab exception applies or incorporate the ridesourcing company drivers into their Drug and Alcohol program.