Public comment on drug testing data on U.S. DOT website

July 1, 2022

Ryan Witkowski

|

The U.S. Department of Transportation is seeking feedback from users regarding possible improvements to public drug testing data on its website. On June 30, a request for information was published to the Federal Register by the U.S. DOT. The public comment period is in response to recommendations made earlier this year from the Government Accountability Office.

In March 2021, GAO published a report titled “DOT Has Taken Steps to Verify and Publicize Drug and Alcohol Testing Data but Should Do More.” In that report, GAO made several recommendations to the Transportation Department regarding reliability of testing, transparency of reporting, and promotion of the Transportation Department website with feedback from users to evaluate possible improvements.

In their report, the GAO recommended the Transportation Department “should reach out to potential users in the public to determine if there is a broader audience for the public data, consistent with key actions for open government data, and if a broader audience is identified, engage with users to evaluate the benefits and costs of adopting additional key actions for open government data and any other possible improvements to the website.”

The Transportation Department concurred with each of the recommendations made by GAO, and has been working to address them individually. The June 30 request for information is the latest step in addressing those recommendations.

According to the Federal Register, the Transportation Department is publishing the request for information to meet these objectives:
Increase awareness regarding the availability of the drug and alcohol testing data on the DOT website, and
Collaborate with, and solicit input from, nongovernmental entities such as stakeholders, researchers, and the public to better understand how those users may value and use the drug and alcohol testing data that is publicly available on the website.

The GAO’s report concluded that the DOT could make better use of the data available and improve the functionality of its website by requesting public comments.

“DOT officials told us there is limited interest in the data based on website traffic,” the GAO’s report read. “However, because DOT has not taken steps to inform the public of the data, DOT may be missing opportunities to identify additional users and improvements.”

One point GAO makes is potential users may not be aware of the Transportation Department website or potential uses for the data. They contend interest in the data, as well as possible improvements to the site, cannot be known without seeking public comments.

“For example, if aware that the information is now publicly available, a motor carrier employer could use the public drug and alcohol testing data to understand how that individual employer’s drug and alcohol testing results compare to industry-wide results,” the GAO’s report read. “However, because the Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy and Compliance has not identified or reached out to potential users in the public, officials cannot be certain the public is not interested in the data. As a result, DOT does not know whether the website meets the requirements for transparently providing data, or if additional improvements could make this a more valuable resource for users.”

Some of the information the Transportation Department is seeking addressed these areas:

  • What entities use the drug and alcohol testing data on the DOT website.
  • How do those entities use the drug and alcohol testing data on the DOT website.
  • The functionality of the DOT drug and alcohol testing data website, and whether users have specific recommendations regarding possible improvements to the website that would enhance the user’s ability to use the available data.
  • Whether users envision other appropriate uses for the drug and alcohol testing data on the DOT website.

Comments will be accepted now through Aug. 1, and can be filed online here. LL

 

WW Williams