Drug Testing For CDL Drivers - Everything We Know

Drug Testing For CDL Drivers - Everything We Know


Commercial Driver's License or CDL is an official transportation document provided to the drivers who drive trucks, buses, and other commercial vehicles on public roads across state lines. With the rise in trucking activity across the U.S., more and more people consider getting their CDL to gain employment or start a small business.

The requirements for a CDL are numerous, as you'll find out in this article. Before you can be eligible to get one, though, you'll need first to pass a series of tests and screenings. However, not all of these tests are the same. 

Some are used to determine your physical fitness and ability to handle a truck. In contrast, others screen your knowledge of basic driving laws, as well as legal requirements concerning the operation of commercial vehicles.

This article will briefly explain some of the most important tests you need to pass to become a CDL-holder and how exactly they work.

Table Of Contents:

What Is CDL And How Does It Work?

The term "CDL" stands for "commercial driver's license." Drivers who want to drive commercial vehicles across state lines must hold a CDL from their state of residency. Every state has its guidelines and regulations concerning how drivers must use a commercial vehicle in that state. 

Each state has different requirements for the tests you must pass to qualify. Any driver operating a commercial vehicle in a state other than the one that issued his license is required by law to have a CDL issued by the state where he operates the vehicle. 

The only exception is if the driver operates a commercial vehicle in his home state. While CDL drivers often operate commercial vehicles within the boundaries of their home state, CDL holders also drive trucks and buses in other states for work reasons or fun.

The commercial driver's license (CDL) has a standard set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the agency responsible for regulating all commercial motor vehicles, including their drivers.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations require an applicant to pass a medical exam and have a vision in specific ranges of vision or be wearing approved glasses or contact lenses. 

Do CDL Drivers Get Drug Tested?

CDL drivers must pass a drug test to be allowed to drive. A CDL driver who refuses to take a drug test can be disqualified for life. 

You do not have to take the drug test right away. The Department of Transportation allows you up to 10 days to pass the drug test. If you are found to have illegal drugs in your system, several tests will be done to try and find out what the substance is, what it was doing in your body, how much of it was there, and how long it had been there.

If you are taking prescription medication, you have the right to bring a letter from your doctor stating your usage. This might help you to defend your failed drug test when your MRO questions your positive result. 

Importance Of Drug Testing CDL Drivers

Drug testing CDL drivers have become very popular in the United States because of the government's desire to make roads safer, this has become a reality. 

However, experts point out that drug testing CDL drivers could be one of the most effective ways to curb highway drug-related crimes and accidents. Drug testing CDL drivers is also an effective way to remove people who are no longer worthy of holding a commercial driver's license. 

Once a person is under the influence of drugs while driving a commercial vehicle, that person will be placing many lives in danger. In addition, if this person also has passengers and has to drive their passengers somewhere, these people will be at risk.

No matter what sort of drug you are under the influence of, you will instantly become a danger on the highway even if you have been driving for years. So, drug testing CDL drivers can be an effective tool to keep drug users from becoming commercial drivers. This will help trucking companies to prevent the risk of hiring men or women who might be a danger on the highway when they are high on drugs.

What Type Of Drug Test Do CDL Drivers Take?

Each state has different laws concerning drug testing CDL drivers. In some states, the employer may conduct a 5 panel urine test. However, some federal mandates say the best method for a drug test is the Breathalyzer test. Unfortunately, this kind of test can only be used for testing for alcohol if you have been drinking, and it will not detect MMJ, methamphetamine, or cocaine.

As per the FMCSA in the United States, the most common type of drug test CDL drivers take is urine. DOT mandates that you use a urine test for MMJ metabolites, PCP, Opioids, Amphetamines, and cocaine.

According to the FMCSA in the U.S., taking prescribed medication for a specific condition is the only exception. If you have been issued a permit from your state of residence that allows you to use MMJ for medicinal purposes to treat cancer or glaucoma, this will be taken as an exception. 

Additionally, a CDL driver may expect a drug test at various instances throughout their driving career. It includes being tested when applying for a new CDL and randomly throughout your employment as a CDL driver. 

Although there are various scenarios where a CDL driver may be asked to take a drug test, one thing is for sure; no CDL driver should ever have illegal drugs in their system while on the job. It may lead to immediate termination and disqualification.

The test should not detect any medications or substances that are not alcohol, prescription drugs, marijuana, or other illegal drugs. Before taking a commercial driver's license drug test, consider various things.

Random Drug And Alcohol Testing For CDL Drivers

Although it can vary from state to state, in most areas of the United States, CDL drivers can expect to be tested randomly anytime between every couple of months to every year. As per the FMCSA and DOT, a random drug test for CDL drivers can occur after any incident where drugs or alcohol may have been involved.  

A few tests can be done when you are randomly drug tested. The alcohol test can be done by determining your breath alcohol content, or BAC. A CDL driver is required to submit to a random drug test within two hours of being randomly selected and expect you to be tested for several illegal drugs while on the job.

If you are found to have been using recreational drugs or alcohol while on duty, this can affect your driving status and lead to losing your commercial driver's license for life. A CDL driver can expect to be tested for illegal drugs if the driver appears impaired if a crash occurs on their watch, if an employer suspects them of using drugs and alcohol, or any time that a commercial vehicle is involved in a crash.

As per the Department of Transportation, a driver can lose their CDL at any time due to drug and alcohol use, if he had consumed any illicit drugs. Moreover, a CDL driver can expect to be randomly tested for illegal drugs and alcohol while on duty. 

When pulled over, they may be asked to step out of the vehicle and perform a series of exercises to test them for any possible illegal substance in their systems. Several different tests can be administered depending on the drug being searched for. 

Lastly, in cases of reasonable suspicion, a commercial driver can expect to be tested for a blood, breath, or urine test. 

It is because the goal of the DOT and FMCSA is to keep our roads safe for everyone by removing people who are under the influence of illegal drugs when they are on duty. So you must understand what kind of drug test you may be subject to while on the job before you accept a job as a CDL driver.


In conclusion, if you are a CDL driver and have plans to get your commercial driver's license, you must ensure that you pass a drug test. Federal law requires that all CDL drivers take a drug test before driving.

Drug testing CDL drivers ensures that only safe, responsible drivers will be on the road. When a driver tests positive for MMJ, cocaine, methamphetamine, and other illegal drugs, it can result in the loss of your driving privileges for life. 


Does a CDL driver have to submit to drug/alcohol testing, even when not on duty?

Yes. A commercial driver, who performs specific jobs for hire or profit, must comply with the requirements of DOT drug and alcohol testing regulations.

What are the alcohol limits for a commercial driver?

A commercial driver is considered to violate the alcohol regulation if their blood alcohol level is 0.04 percent or greater. The initial violation leads to a warning and a maximum two-week suspension on the first offense; all subsequent violations can lead to a one-year disqualification from driving a commercial vehicle.

What are the drug limits for a commercial driver?

A commercial driver is considered to be violating the drug regulation if they:

  • Have a detectable level of a controlled substance in the blood that is equal to or greater than the level on the FMCSA drug testing threshold schedule;
  • Have refused to take a drug test;
  • Have tested positive for alcohol use and also has a detectable level of a controlled substance in the blood that is equivalent to or greater than the level on the FMCSA drug testing threshold schedule; or

An initial violation of the drug and alcohol regulation is considered a severe safety-sensitive offense that is treated as an out-of-Service violation regardless of whether the driver holds a commercial or noncommercial CDL. All subsequent violations also are treated as out-of-service offenses.

Can I take a retest if I failed the first one?

Yes. If you failed, you could request a re-test of your sample. You will be required to pay for the cost of this retest at your employer's discretion, as well as any follow-up tests that may occur if you fail the re-test or if you are not able to provide a sufficient sample for testing.

Can I get my CDL back if I lose it due to drug use?

Yes. If available, you may regain your CDL privileges if you are willing to meet with a substance abuse professional and complete a substance abuse program. 

If you do not have the resources to pay for these services, a treatment program certified by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) will be provided free of charge. Failure to complete any aspect of the restoration process can result in the indefinite suspension of your CDL privileges.

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