With COVID-19 continuing to wreak havoc on the country and shuttering many drug testing and alcohol testing facilities, a growing number of companies are turning to mobile drug testing as an alternative. In fact, in late March 2020, the Department of Transportation (DOT) endorsed it as a best practice in this time of national emergency, especially when fixed-site collection facilities are not available.

Unfortunately, even a global pandemic has not reduced the prevalence of drug and alcohol use. In fact, many researchers point out that during a time of national crisis such as this, substance abuse tends to rise. With 75% of adults suffering from a substance use disorder already in the workforce, this could prove devastating for employers and their employees.

More than 72,000 people died of a drug overdose in 2017, and more than two-thirds of those deaths involved opioids. Overdose is just the most severe problem, however. Companies are also dealing with the costs of lost productivity and increased health and safety hazards as well as absenteeism.

For many of these companies, such as those governed by DOT regulations, a drug testing program is the law. For many others, it just makes sense. Mobile testing brings the laboratory to your workplace, eliminating many of the issues related to sending your workers to an off-site lab.

Whether you are considering mobile testing as an interim measure or as a permanent alternative to fixed-site or on-site collection facilities, here is what you need to know.

Mobile Testing Procedures

Mobile tests are conducted in one of two ways. Some companies will require you to provide a room and private bathroom, but truly mobile companies will come with a fully equipped laboratory on wheels, usually in the form of a van or bus.

Testing procedures for mobile testing are similar to other drug test procedures, and results will take just as long. All the standard safety, confidentiality and other processes are adhered to just as they would be in a typical laboratory situation.

Types of Testing

Mobile labs can perform any drug or alcohol test, including hair, saliva and blood tests. Mobile testing facilities can also be brought in regularly or periodically or be on call to provide:

Advantages of Mobile Testing

There are numerous advantages to mobile testing for the employer, as well as the employee.

Reduced Downtime

Mobile testing tends to be more cost effective. Of course, the initial costs may be slightly higher to bring the laboratory to your workplace, but that is more than made up for in reduced downtime and increased productivity. Each worker needs to spend only a few minutes at a mobile site rather than several hours in transport, waiting, and so on. As a result, it is far less disruptive for the entire team and far less costly in the end for the employer.

Fewer Missed or Delayed Tests

Sending workers out to collection sites increases opportunities for missed or delayed tests. Bringing the facilities to the workplace eliminates these opportunities.

Reduced Possibility of Compromised Tests

The more time a worker has between being selected for a random or other test and arriving at the collection site, the more opportunity there is to compromise the test. It is relatively easy for a worker to slip home or consume a masking product while on the way to their test. With your workers walking straight off the line or out of the office and into the collection site, the possibility of compromise or contamination is also eliminated.

Higher Participation

Mobile facilities make it easy for your company to test larger groups at the same time, helping to eliminate the non-participants in your drug testing program. It also reduces the complicated logistics that often accompany coordinating transportation and scheduling testing for large groups of employees.

Reduced Liability

There is some liability attached to requiring your workers to travel to off-site drug testing facilities, particularly if they are traveling in company vehicles. This is also an issue when it comes to post-incident testing. Mobile facilities eliminate the need for travel and eliminate the possibility of additional accidents, including those occurring due to impairment. Additionally, in the case of both post-accident and reasonable suspicion situations, it is often not possible to arrange immediate tests for affected employees at an off-site facility. Mobile facilities are easily accessed in a safe and timely manner.

Flexibility

Mobile testing offers increased flexibility for both employers and employees who can conveniently complete their tests and immediately return to work. Mobile testing companies will also often handle everything for you from scheduling to collection, eliminating the need for you to micromanage your drug testing program. Many companies that offer mobile testing have a 24/7 option that can accommodate your night and weekend shifts as well. They can also quickly respond to requests for post-accident and reasonable suspicion testing.

Disadvantages of Mobile Testing

Most of the disadvantages of mobile testing are related to stigma and confidentiality. Your company may not want to have a mobile drug testing van parked on your premises in a publicly visible place. It can also be more challenging to preserve confidentiality in an on-premise mobile testing facility, particularly for certain types of drug tests and in high traffic areas.

For many companies, the advantages of mobile drug testing far outweigh the disadvantages. However, every situation is unique, and mobile testing is not the best solution for every company. Weigh the pros and cons and discuss your options with your drug testing vendors as well as your supervisors and employee representatives. Getting company-wide buy-in for any drug testing program, including a mobile testing program, will help ensure the program's success.