DOT Drug Test: All you Need to Know

DOT Drug Test: All you Need to Know


A DOT drug screening is a federally regulated drug testing method that determines whether someone, exclusively in the safety-sensitive job has taken abusive drugs that may cause impairment in performing the duty effectively and in a safe manner.

Are you a DOT regulated employer or employee? Then this blog is exclusively for you! Learn more about the DOT drug testing requirements, what to do after a failed DOT drug test, and much more.

Table Of Contents:

What is a DOT Drug Test?

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) upholds DOT compliance to ensure safety during the transportation for both workers and the general public. One of the main components of the DOT compliance requirements is the DOT drug test, which is a  mandatory drug testing for employees deemed "safety-sensitive." 

These individuals play integral roles in providing transportation services encompassing air, road, rail, and water transport, spanning both overland and underground operations.

The prevailing DOT drug and alcohol testing regulations stem from the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act (1991). This legislation required all the  DOT agencies to conduct comprehensive drug and alcohol testing for employees engaged in safety-sensitive job roles. 

In adherence to the act's directives, the DOT's Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy and Compliance (ODAPC) established stringent rules governing the execution of tests, along with meticulous procedures for testing and reporting.

The DOT Drug and Alcohol Testing Requirements

The Department of Transportation requires the transportation and safety sensitive employers to abide by their drug and alcohol drug testing requrements. Compliance with these DOT drug and alcohol testing requirements is crucial to main the integrity and safety of the transportation workforce. 

All the six main agencies should abide by the DOT compliance requirements with specific DOT regulations to each transportation agency. 

Who is subject to DOT drug test?

DOT drug and alcohol testing is not confined to specific positions, but it is based on the duties performed in that particular DOT industry. As per  the ODAPC, job duties involving vital safety-security responsibilities should undergo a DOT drug test. There are six main DOT agencies who should abide by the DOT regulations. Employers who fall under these categories should conduct a mandatory drug test for their employees.

  1. Federal Aviation Administration
  2. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
  3. Federal Railroad Adminstration
  4. United States Coast Guard
  5. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration
  6. Federal Transit Administration

Note: The DOT agencies and the USCG require the employers to have a drug and alcohol testing policy in place. One significant thing about the policy is that the Drug and alcohol testing program in the policy should be informed to the employees and adequate awareness should be made. 

Not all the duties require a DOT testing. Here is the list of duties in each agency that requires a DOT drug test

Source - ODAPC

What substances does DOT test for?

As per the DOT compliance regulations, the employer should conduct a drug test for the following substances

  1. Marijuana (THC)
  2. Amphetamines (AMP & MAMP)
  3. Cocaine (COC)
  4. Phencyclidine (PCP)
  5. Opioids (OPI)

The DOT Rule 49 CFR Part 40 establishes the rule to conduct a DOT 5 panel urine drug test for the employees. Recently, the FMCSA has approved the use of oral saliva drug test for the employees. Please note that the DOT drug test should be done only in HHS-certified laboratories and not anywhere else. 

The DOT drug testing should be conducted by a DOT regulated employer only during the below-mentioned circumstances
1. Prior to the employment (DOT pre-employment drug test)
2. Random testing (DOT random drug test)

  1. Reasonable suspicion
  2. Post-Accident drug testing
  3. Return-to-Duty Drug Testing
  4. Follow-Up Testing

How Far Back Does DOT Drug Test Go?

DOT mostly conducts a urine drug test and hence the look-back period would be around days to some weeks. But you cannot put a fixed timeline on a DOT drug test as it involves drug cut-off levels and other factors like metabolism, sample temperature, age of the individual, sex, and other factors that could determine the amount of time the drug stays on. 

To say it precisely, the DOT drug test results would be determined based the cut-off levels and if the drug levels are below the cut-off levels, the employee may be considered for the safety-sensitive role. 

Is DOT Drug Test a Part of DOT Physical?

Are you given a drug test as a part of DOT physical? Yes, DOT physical drug test is a mandatory drug testing procedure conducted for all those candidates who are aspiring for safety sensitive roles like CMV drivers, Airline Pilots, Train operators, Ship crew members, and Pipeline workers.

While the DOT drug testing involves a range of testing scenarios, the DOT physical drug test particularly focuses on the broader DOT physical examination required for individuals in the transportation sector. You should understand that both are crucial in maintaining the safety standards and security of the employees.

Who is a DER and what does he Do?

The Designated Employer Representative (DER) holds a crucial role in managing various aspects of a company's drug and alcohol program. This key employee must be an internal staff member and cannot be an external contractor or service agent, except in cases where Compliance/Third-Party Administrators (C/TPAs) act as DERs for owner-operator truck drivers.

The DER is responsible for receiving test results from the Medical Review Officer (MRO) and Breath Alcohol Technician (BAT). When employees violate drug and alcohol testing rules, such as testing positive or refusing a test, the DER takes prompt action to remove them from safety-sensitive duties.

To ensure comprehensive coverage across shifts and locations, a company may appoint more than one DER, possibly with a drug and alcohol program manager overseeing the entire program for consistency among DERs. Employers must share DER contact information with service agents to facilitate direct communication without delay.

It is essential for the DER to possess knowledge and decision-making authority regarding the testing process, being capable of addressing questions about it. The primary responsibility of the DER is to ensure the proper and timely removal of an employee from safety-sensitive duties, contributing to the overall effectiveness of the company's drug and alcohol program.

DOT Drug Testing Violations

Any employee who does not abide by the DOT regulations might be considered a DOT violation. The most common DOT drug testing violations include

  1. Under the Influence: Employees with a blood alcohol concentration of .04 or higher cannot perform duties. Most employees should avoid alcohol within four hours before duty, extended to eight hours for flight attendants and crew members.
  2. Drug Use: Reporting for duty or staying on duty after using illicit drugs is prohibited. Exceptions may apply for controlled substances under medical supervision.
  3. Refusing a Test: Refusal to undergo a drug or alcohol test results in dismissal. Interfering with the testing process or specimen collection is also prohibited.

DOT drug and alcohol testing, a federal mandate, ensures nationwide safety by keeping employees and the public secure. Understanding these requirements fosters compliance and mutual safety.

Failed DOT Drug Test - What’s Next?

If an individual or an employee fails a DOT drug test, it may lead to immediate removal from the safety-sensitive position. The individual must consult a Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) for an evaluation and follow their recommendations, which may include education or treatment. 

Subsequent to completing SAP requirements, the individual undergoes follow-up testing before a return-to-duty test. Successful completion of these steps is essential for reinstatement into safety-sensitive roles, ensuring compliance with DOT regulations. 


Do they watch you pee for a dot drug test?

No, your DOT drug test will not most probably be a supervised drug test. A direct observation during the urine collection process is generally not allowed, unless there are specific reasons to suspect tampering or cheating.

Will CBD gummies show up on a dot drug test?

It's possible for CBD gummies to show up on a DOT drug test, as some CBD products may contain trace amounts of THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis. It's crucial to choose CBD products labeled as THC-free or undergo third-party testing to ensure compliance with DOT regulations and avoid potential issues with drug tests.

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