U.S. Coast Guard and DOT: Is they is, or is they ain’t?
On July 13, 2017 the Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy Compliance (ODAPC) published a new Part 40 Question and Answer regarding the United States Coast Guard. With apologies to the movie Oh Brother Where Art Thou, the Q&A answered the question “Is they is, or is they ain’t… a DOT agency?”
Was there ever any confusion whether the US Coast Guard was a DOT agency? Yes! Here’s why we are confused. The Coast Guard is not included anywhere on the DOT website’s list of operating agencies. In fact, the US Coast guard is a branch of the US Armed Forces and operates under the Dept. of Homeland Security.
The new Part 40 Q&A attempts to clarify this issue. The Answer begins with:
“Although included in the definition of a DOT Agency [see §40.3], the USCG is a DOT
Agency with respect to Part 40 only when the USCG regulation [e.g., 46 CFR Part 16 or
46 CFR Part 4] incorporates Part 40 to carry out its chemical testing regulation.”
The Q&A goes on to point out that the USCG regulation 46 CFR §16.113(a) states, “Drug testing programs required by this part must be conducted in accordance with 49 CFR part 40, Procedures for Transportation Workplace Testing Programs.”
The Q&A continues by reminding readers that the Coast Guard does not follow the alcohol testing procedures in 49 CFR Part 40.
We were still a little confused after reading this. We know that the Coast Guard is not a part of the Department of Transportation. Was there a typo? Did they mean to say “Although not included in the definition of a DOT agency…?” So we looked up the relevant part of 49 CFR Part 40.3, which defines the terms used in the regulation. It’s not a typo. The regulation reads “DOT, The Department, DOT Agency: These terms encompass all DOT agencies, including, but not limited to, the United States Coast Guard (USCG) …”
We think that including the US Coast Guard in the definition of a DOT Agency is confusing, and we’re glad that DOT wrote this most recent Q&A to try to clear up the confusion. But we also think it would be much less confusing if the US Coast Guard was not included in 40.3 in the definition of a DOT Agency. Perhaps ODAPC will consider making this change the next time they revise Part 40.
So, is they is, or is they ain’t, a DOT agency? Our answer is no, the US Coast Guard is not a DOT agency. The USCG must follow the Part 40 procedures for drug testing, but that doesn’t make the Coast Guard a DOT agency.
Lauren Hobbs says
I believe the USCG should not even be mentioned in anything related to DOT especially drug testing.
What could be created for safety purposes is :
Federal Oceanic Safety Adminisration
This would cover any and all commercial boat/ship captains, crew in safety sensitive positions and mechanics.
Jennie Lee-Pace says
Hi Lauren. That’s very interesting. I never thought of that before.
Tamera Bean says
Let me get this straight……If I have to do both on one donor, I would have to use a non-DOT form for the alcohol test and a Federal form for the drug screen? I guess that would only be in a post-accident situation. I have only done drug screens so far. Being listed under a DOT agency, are they not subject to breath alcohol testing?
Jennie Lee-Pace says
You are correct. The Coast Guard does not follow DOT protocol for alcohol testing, only for drug testing.
The Coast Guard is under the Department of Transportation a during peace time activities, and in times of war is then is assigned to the Department of the Navy.
In 1967, the Coast Guard moved from the U.S. Department of the Treasury to the newly formed U.S. Department of Transportation, an arrangement that lasted until it was placed under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2003 as part of legislation designed to more efficiently protect American interests
Jennie Lee-Pace says
Correct. If you look at the DOT website, the listed agencies can be found. USCG is footnoted as technically a Dept of Homeland Security. However, they are subject to DOT drug and alcohol testing policies. https://www.transportation.gov/odapc/agencies
USCGC WHEC-720 vet 1994-1996 says
The coast guard was under the DOT and not DoD until after 9/11 when the DHS was created and control of the USCG shifted to DHS