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DOT Drug and Alcohol Policies & Testing

Last Updated: Nov 28, 2016

*****On December 4, 2015, the FAST Act transportation bill was signed into law by President Obama. Among other provisions, it allows for hair follicle drug testing as a DOT-approved method, but not until the Department of Health and Human Services establishes guidelines for testing, which must be completed within a year.*****

What New Truck Drivers Need To Know About DOT Drug/Alcohol Testing Policy:

The DOT has established that anyone in the transportation industry who is designated as a safety-sensitive employee is subject to DOT drug & alcohol testing.

Who is tested for drugs and/or alcohol? All CDL holders who operate CMV's covered under FMCSA regulation 49 CFR Part 382.

As a CDL driver, you are required to submit to drug and/or alcohol testing at any time during the pre-employment or employment process.

Currently, drug testing for DOT purposes to satisfy Federal requirements is done only through urinalysis. On December 4, 2015, the FAST Act transportation bill was signed into law by President Obama. Among other provisions, it allows for hair follicle drug testing as a DOT-approved method, but not until the Department of Health and Human Services establishes guidelines for testing, which must be completed within a year.

If you are a CMV driver/operator, expect to be tested any time, for any reason, or randomly.

What Employees Need To Know About DOT Drug & Alcohol Testing Handbook

Who Is Tested?

Generally, all CDL drivers who operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) (greater than 26,000 GVWR , or transporting more than 16 passengers, including the driver, or placarded hazardous materials) on public roadways must be DOT drug and alcohol tested. This applies to any driver required to possess a CDL, including those employed by Federal, State, and local government agencies, “owner operators,” and equivalently licensed drivers from foreign countries.

Part-time drivers must also be included in an employer’s drug and alcohol testing program. Drivers who only operate CMVs on private property not open to the public do not require testing. This includes all full-time, part-time, intermittent, backup and international drivers.

What Substances Are Drivers Tested For?

DOT drug tests require laboratory testing for the following five classes of drugs:

  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Opiates - opium and codeine derivatives
  • Amphetamines and methamphetamines
  • Phencyclidine – PCP

DOT drug cutoff concentrations can be found on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Web site.

Alcohol Testing and Concentrations:

Alcohol Testing Regulationy Stuff: 382.201: Alcohol concentration. DOT alcohol tests identify alcohol concentration of 0.02 and greater. 0.02 will be reported to the employer, while drivers having an alcohol concentration of .04 or greater will not be permitted to perform safety-sensitive functions.

No driver shall report for duty or remain on duty requiring the performance of safety-sensitive functions while having an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or greater. No employer having knowledge that a driver has an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or greater shall permit the driver to perform or continue to perform safety-sensitive functions.

Is There A List Of Prohibited Drugs To Be Medically Qualified To Drive? The short answer is yes and no. See below for the breakdown.

Illegal Drugs - Passing a DOT physical requires that a driver does not use any Schedule I (dangerous and addictive, with no medical use, by definition.) drugs, amphetamines, narcotics or other habit-forming drugs.

Prescription drugs - The prescribing doctor can write that the driver is safe to be a commercial driver while taking the medication. In this case, the Medical Examiner may, but does not have to certify the driver.

Any anti-seizure medication used for the prevention of seizures is disqualifying. Methadone use is disqualifying.

The Medical Examiner has 2 ways to determine if any medication a driver uses will adversely affect safe operation of a CMV:

  • Review each medication - prescription, non-prescription and supplement.
  • Request a letter from the prescribing doctor.

Carrier Drug-Testing Policies NOTE REGARDING NON-DOT TESTING: DOT does not prohibit motor carrier employers from instituting a “company authority” testing program that is in addition to, and distinct from, the required DOT testing program. Just because it's not listed, does not mean that you won't be tested for it. These are the minimums. Check with your carrier.

Under such non-DOT programs, employers could test for other drugs. DOT also does not prohibit employers from using tests of non-urine specimens under a non-DOT program. DOT regulations at §382.601 provide that employer materials supplied to drivers may include information on additional employer policies with respect to the use of alcohol or controlled substances, including any consequences for a driver found to have a specified alcohol or controlled substances level, that are based on the employer's authority independent of this part. Any such additional policies or consequences must be clearly and obviously described as being based on the employer's independent authority.

What tests are required and when does testing occur?

Drug and Alcohol testing can be performed anytime, for various reasons, with or without notice.

When you least expect it, expect it. Even when you expect it, expect it.

Currently, only urinalysis (UA) is an accepted method to satisfy Federal drug-testing requirements. On December 4, 2015, the FAST Act transportation bill was signed into law by President Obama. Among other provisions, it allows for hair follicle drug testing as a DOT-approved method, but not until the Department of Health and Human Services establishes guidelines for testing, which must be completed within a year.

DOT drug and alcohol tests include:

  • Pre-employment:

    A new driver must be drug tested with a negative result before an employer can permit him to operate a CMV on a public road. If a driver is removed from a random testing pool for more than 30 days, he must again be pre-employment tested.

  • Post-accident:

    CDL drivers must be drug and alcohol tested whenever they are involved in a fatal accident, or receive a traffic citation resulting from an injury or vehicle-disabling accident. The alcohol test must occur within 8 hours, and the drug test must occur within 32 hours.

  • Random:

    CDL drivers are subject to unannounced random testing. A driver may be directed to take a drug test even when at home in an off-duty status. Random alcohol testing may only occur when the driver is on-duty or immediately before or after. Once notified to report for random testing, drivers must immediately report to the testing location. Delaying your arrival may be considered a refusal (see 49 CFR 40.191), which is equivalent to testing positive.

  • Reasonable Suspicion:

    DOT-trained supervisors can direct you to be drug or alcohol tested whenever you exhibit signs of drug or alcohol abuse. The decision must be based on observations concerning the appearance, behavior, speech, or body odors of the driver. Even if you're not drunk or high, if your natural state is stumbly and goofy, they can test you.

  • Return-to-duty:

    Drivers who have a failure or refusal will be required to submit to a directly observed test after completing the return-to-duty process. You are subject to unannounced follow-up testing at least 6 times in the first 12 months following your return to active safety-sensitive service

  • Follow-up:

    Drivers who have returned to duty after completing the return-to-duty process will be subject to a minimum of 6 directly observed tests in 12 months. The amount of follow-up testing you receive is determined by a Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) and may continue for up to 5 years.

Required DOT Drug and Alcohol Testing

Drug & Alcohol Test Details, Consequences & Impact For Drivers

What happens after I give a sample for my drug or alcohol test?

  • Sample will be split into 2 pieces, "A" & "B".
  • Laboratory staff will make sure that the sample is not flawed in any way.
  • Only the "A" bottle will be opened and tested. Positive tests will be screened again using a different method.
  • The findings will be reported to the Medical Review Officer (MRO).
  • Samples will be stored for at least 12 months.
  • The MRO will review the paperwork, and in the case of a negative result, will inform the employer.
  • In the case of a positive result, the MRO will conduct an interview with the employee to determine if a legitimate medical reason exists for the positive result.
  • If it is determined that a legitimate medical reason exists for a positive test, the MOR will report a "negative" result to the employer. Otherwise, you will have 72 hours to request a test on the "B" sample from another certified lab.

What if I fail or refuse a test?

Failing a drug or alcohol test will require your immediate removal from safety-sensitive functions. Refusal to take a test will generally be considered a "fail", and the result will be the same.

You'll be taken out of the seat, and will be required to jump through the DOT hoops to be re-instated.

A positive test result or a refusal requires the driver to be immediately removed from operating any CMV on public roadways. The employer must provide you with a list of acceptable substance abuse professionals (SAPs) from which to choose to begin the “return-to-duty” process. This process must be completed before a positive or refusal driver can legally return to driving CMVs for any employer, including himself.

The impact of testing positive or refusing to test can be devastating for a driver and his family. It often results in extended periods of unemployment, due to the time necessary to complete the “return-to-duty” process with a qualified SAP and the tendency of employers not to hire drivers with drug or alcohol histories.

Your refusal to submit to a drug or alcohol test is generally equivalent to testing positive to a drug or alcohol test. You must immediately be removed from performing safety-sensitive functions (i.e., driving CMVs) until successful completion of the return-to-duty process with a DOT-qualified substance abuse professional.

The DOT regulations outline refusals to test for drugs and alcohol. Some refusals are determined by medical review officers (49 CFR Part 40 Subpart G) and alcohol technicians (49 CFR Part 40 Subpart N). For others, the determination is the employer’s responsibility. Refusals to submit to a drug or alcohol test are defined in §382.107.

Return-to-duty and Follow-up In Short: If you get busted, you're going to have to prove that you've gotten your act together.

  • Follow-up drug and alcohol tests are required as prescribed by the substance abuse professional (SAP) who signs the return-to-duty report. They consist of a minimum of at least six unannounced directly observed tests conducted during the first 12 months following the return-to-duty test. The SAP can prescribe follow-up testing for a maximum of 5 years for drivers who have tested “positive” or “refused to test.” Follow-up testing is in addition to any selections for random testing
  • Drug Test Failure & Return-to-Duty Process

DOT Drug & Alcohol Testing Procedures

Once notified to report for testing, a CDL driver must report to the collection site immediately.

DOT drug testing only recognizes urinalysis as a valid means for drug testing. If problems are identified, you may be required to retest under direct observation. A driver is only permitted three hours to produce a urine specimen. Leaving the collection site before the process has been completed may be declared a “refusal.”

Once tested, the laboratory will report the analysis to a medical review officer (MRO). If the analysis indicates a positive result, the MRO will contact the driver to determine whether there are circumstances that would explain the positive result. If there are none, the MRO will report a positive result to the employer

Other DOT Drug/Alcohol Testing Questions:

  • Will I lose my job if I violate a DOT Agency drug and alcohol rule?

    All employment decisions belong solely to the employer. DOT regulations do not address employment actions such as hiring, firing or leaves of absence. DOT and USCG regulation may prohibit you from performing your safety-sensitive functions after a positive test result or refusal to submit to testing. You should be aware that a positive, adulterated or substituted DOT drug or alcohol test may trigger consequences based on company policy or employment agreement.

  • Will my results follow me to other employers?

    Yes, your drug and alcohol testing history will follow you to your new employer. Employers are required by law to provide certain records of your DOT drug and alcohol testing history to your new employer, only when you sign a specific written release regarding that information. This is to ensure that, when necessary, you complete the return-to-duty process and your follow up testing program.

  • What should I do if I believe I or my co-worker has an alcohol or substance abuse problem?

    Most every community in the country has resources available to confidentially assist you through the evaluation and treatment of your problem. If you would like to find a treatment facility close to you, check with your local yellow pages, local health department or visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services treatment facility locater. This site provides contact information for substance abuse treatment programs by state, city and U.S. Territory.

  • Are my results confidential?

    Your test results are confidential. An employer or service agent (e.g., a testing laboratory, Medical Review Officer or Substance Abuse Professional) is not permitted to disclose your test result(s) without your written consent. In certain situations, however, your test information may be released without your consent; such as, legal proceedings, grievances, or administrative proceedings brought on by you or on your behalf, which resulted from a positive, adulterated, substituted test result or refusal. When your employer releases your drug and alcohol testing records, the employer must notify you in writing.

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.

Owner Operator:

An owner-operator is a driver who either owns or leases the truck they are driving. A self-employed driver.

Commercial Motor Vehicle:

A commercial motor vehicle is any vehicle used in commerce to transport passengers or property with either:

  • A gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more
  • A gross combination weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more which includes a towed unit with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds
  • CSA:

    Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA)

    The CSA is a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) initiative to improve large truck and bus safety and ultimately reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities that are related to commercial motor vehicle

    FMCSA:

    Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

    The FMCSA was established within the Department of Transportation on January 1, 2000. Their primary mission is to prevent commercial motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries.

    What Does The FMCSA Do?

    • Commercial Drivers' Licenses
    • Data and Analysis
    • Regulatory Compliance and Enforcement
    • Research and Technology
    • Safety Assistance
    • Support and Information Sharing

    SAP:

    Substance Abuse Professional

    The Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) is a person who evaluates employees who have violated a DOT drug and alcohol program regulation and makes recommendations concerning education, treatment, follow-up testing, and aftercare.

    DOT:

    Department Of Transportation

    A department of the federal executive branch responsible for the national highways and for railroad and airline safety. It also manages Amtrak, the national railroad system, and the Coast Guard.

    State and Federal DOT Officers are responsible for commercial vehicle enforcement. "The truck police" you could call them.

    GVWR:

    Gross Vehicle Weight Rating

    GVWR is the maximum operating weight of a vehicle as specified by the manufacturer, minus any trailers.

    CMV:

    Commercial Motor Vehicle

    A CMV is a vehicle that is used as part of a business, is involved in interstate commerce, and may fit any of these descriptions:

    • Weighs 10,001 pounds or more
    • Has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more
    • Is designed or used to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver) not for compensation
    • Is designed or used to transport 9 or more passengers (including the driver) for compensation
    • Is transporting hazardous materials in a quantity requiring placards

    BMI:

    Body mass index (BMI)

    BMI is a formula that uses weight and height to estimate body fat. For most people, BMI provides a reasonable estimate of body fat. The BMI's biggest weakness is that it doesn't consider individual factors such as bone or muscle mass. BMI may:

    • Underestimate body fat for older adults or other people with low muscle mass
    • Overestimate body fat for people who are very muscular and physically fit

    It's quite common, especially for men, to fall into the "overweight" category if you happen to be stronger than average. If you're pretty strong but in good shape then pay no attention.

    Dm:

    Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

    The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.

    Fm:

    Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

    The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.

    HOS:

    Hours Of Service

    HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

    OWI:

    Operating While Intoxicated

    OOS:

    When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

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