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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Interpretation Response #PI-20-0007

Below is the interpretation response detail and a list of regulations sections applicable to this response.

Interpretation Response Details

Response Publish Date:

Company Name: IBEW Local 1245

Individual Name: Mr. Alexander Pacheco

Location State: CA Country: US

View the Interpretation Document

Response text:

Mr. Alexander Pacheco
General Counsel
IBEW Local 1245
30 Orange Tree Circle
Vacaville, CA 95687

Dear Mr. Pacheco:

In a letter to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), dated February 14, 2020, you requested an interpretation of the federal pipeline safety regulations in 49 CFR § 192.615 with respect to customer service representatives (CSRs) working in Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) call centers. In your letter you state, "Under 49 CFR 192.615, any person who performs on a gas pipeline a regulated operating, maintenance, or emergency-response function is subject to DOT-mandated drug testing." You add that the drug testing is required "under § 192.615."

To clarify, PHMSA's Drug and Alcohol Testing regulations are codified in 49 CFR Part 199, not in Part 192. The specific regulations requiring drug and alcohol (D&A) testing include § 199.1.

§ 199.1 Scope.
This part requires operators of pipeline facilities subject to part 192, 193, or 195 of this chapter to test covered employees for the presence of prohibited drugs and alcohol. In addition, § 199.3 specifies the meaning of "covered employee" and "covered function."

§ 199.3 Definitions.
As used in this part -
Covered employee, employee, or individual to be tested means a person who performs a covered function, including persons employed by operators, contractors engaged by operators, and persons employed by such contractors.

Covered function means an operations, maintenance, or emergency-response function regulated by part 192, 193, or 195 of this chapter that is performed on a pipeline or on an LNG facility.

Please note that the definition of "covered function" refers to Parts 192, 193, and 195 for clarification as to what specific operations, maintenance, and emergency-response functions require "covered employees" to be D&A tested per Part 199.

The code section you referenced, § 192.615, requires each operator of a gas pipeline to establish written emergency plans. Those written emergency plans must include the emergency-response functions that would trigger the D&A testing of "covered employees" under Part 199.

Your concern pertains to CSRs working in PG&E call centers. As you noted in your letter, PHMSA addressed this issue in interpretation PL-90-003 dated February 13, 1990. That interpretation states that service clerks responsible for performing the following three things are "covered employees" subject to D&A testing:

  1. receiving telephone notices of gas leaks,
  2. identifying those notices that require immediate response by the company; and
  3. dispatching personnel to the scene.

In reviewing the PG&E CSR processes you enclosed in your letter, PHMSA believes that in each case the "dispatching of personnel to the scene" function (item # 3 above) is not performed by the CSR but by PG&E's Dispatch Department. Thus, PHMSA finds that the CSRs working in PG&E call centers are not performing all three of the stated functions and, therefore, are not "covered employees" subject to D&A testing.

Notwithstanding the above, nothing in Part 199 prohibits an employer from D&A testing any of its employees using non-DOT procedures, including those employees already subject to D&A testing under PHMSA regulations.

If we can be of further assistance, please contact Tewabe Asebe at 202-366-5523.


John A. Gale
Director, Office of Standards
and Rulemaking

Regulation Sections

Section Subject
192.615 Emergency plans