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DOT Drug Test: A Complete Guide [2022]

DOT drug test

Employers regulated by a DOT agency are required to conduct DOT drug tests at specific times before and after hiring.

These tests are designed to protect public safety and prevent accidents caused by dangerous employees in safety-sensitive jobs.

At iprospectcheck, we coordinate DOT drug tests for regulated employers in all states including California, Florida, and Texas.

Here’s what you need to know about DOT drug tests and how they should be conducted.

What is a DOT Drug Test?

A DOT drug test is a five-panel drug screen administered to employees in safety-sensitive positions who are employed by companies regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).

These tests must be taken prior to employment, at other specific intervals, and after certain events that take place during the duration of employment.

What Does a DOT Drug Test For?

Under DOT regulations, DOT drug tests must screen for the following substances to detect whether an applicant or employee has recently used some or more of them:

  • Marijuana (THC)
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)
  • Amphetamines
  • Opiates (heroin, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxycodone, and oxymorphone)
  • Cocaine

Who is Required to Take a DOT Drug Test?

Employers regulated by the following DOT agencies are required to send applicants and employees for DOT drug tests:

The following safety-sensitive employees and applicants for these positions must take DOT drug tests:

  • Air traffic controllers
  • Aircraft dispatchers
  • Airline flight crew members
  • Airline pilots
  • Bus drivers
  • Commercial truck drivers
  • Flight attendants
  • Flight instructors
  • Flight operations control specialists
  • Pipeline/hazardous materials emergency responders
  • Pipeline/hazardous materials maintenance workers
  • Pipeline/hazardous materials operators
  • Train conductors
  • Train dispatchers
  • Train engineers
  • Train operators
  • Train signalmen
  • Train utility employees
  • U.S. Coast Guard service members

DOT Drug Test Requirements

DOT drug tests are required in the following circumstances:

1. Pre-Employment Drug Tests

All prospective candidates who apply to safety-sensitive jobs for employers regulated by the FMCSA must take pre-employment DOT drug tests before they can begin their jobs.

If they fail a pre-employment drug test, their conditional job offers will be withdrawn.

2. Post-Accident Drug Tests

For FMCSA-regulated employers, post-accident drug testing will be required under the following conditions:

  • Fatal accidents regardless of whether the driver was cited
  • Injury accidents when the driver was cited that required emergency medical treatment
  • Property-damage-only accidents when the driver was cited that required towing

Employers regulated by other DOT agencies have similar requirements.

3. Random Drug Testing

Drivers with CDLs who work for FMCSA-regulated employers must undergo random drug tests during the year.

Owner-operators must complete random drug tests through a program involving two or more employees in a testing pool comprised of members of a consortium.

4. Reasonable Suspicion Drug Testing

Regulated employers must conduct reasonable suspicion drug tests on employees in safety-sensitive positions who are suspected to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

They should inform the employee in private of their suspicions and immediately send them for testing.

However, they should not allow the employee to drive to the testing center and should either drive them or have the test administered on-site.

5. Return-to-Duty Drug Testing

If a regulated employer wants to return an employee to their safety-sensitive job after the employee has refused a drug test or submitted a positive result, they must undergo the return-to-duty process.

The employee must successfully complete an alcohol and drug education and treatment program to the satisfaction of a DOT-approved substance abuse professional (SAP).

Once the employer has received the SAP report, they can then send the employee for return-to-duty testing (RTD).

The employee must submit a negative result before they can be returned to their job.

6. Follow-up Drug Testing

If an employee is returned to their job following an RTD test, they must undergo a minimum of six follow-up drug tests during the initial 12 months after their return.

Follow-up drug tests are in addition to any random or reasonable suspicion drug tests the employee might also have to submit during the same period.

DOT Drug Testing Laws for 2022

U.S. Department of Transportation

The Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act of 1991 is enforced by the U.S. Department of Transportation and includes drug testing requirements for all DOT-regulated agencies.

Under current regulations, all DOT drug tests must be conducted only with urine specimens.

In Feb. 2022, the DOT issued a proposed rule that would allow the addition of saliva testing. However, a final rule has not been implemented, so DOT drug tests still only include urine screens.

In addition to DOT’s regulations, individual agencies have promulgated their own regulations for DOT drug tests.

Federal Aviation Administration

The FAA’s drug testing regulations are found in 14 CFR, part 120. Under § 120.109, employees in safety-sensitive jobs must undergo the following types of tests:

  • Pre-employment drug tests
  • Random drug tests
  • Post-accident drug tests
  • Reasonable cause drug tests
  • Return-to-duty drug tests
  • Follow-up drug tests

The FAA’s regulations have specific procedures for how and when each of these types of tests should be conducted.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

FMCSA-regulated employers must conduct DOT drug tests on CDL drivers under 49 CFR, part 382.

This part includes multiple rules for the procedures that must be used, the types of tests and when they should be administered, and the employees who are subject to testing.

FMCSA-regulated drivers form the bulk of employees who undergo DOT drug tests.

Federal Railroad Administration

Safety-sensitive railroad employees are required to undergo DOT drug tests under 49 CFR, part 219.

The FRA has numerous rules under this part, including some with some key differences.

When there is a fatal accident, for example, FRA rules mandate the collection of specimens from deceased safety-sensitive employees to test for the presence of drugs or alcohol.

Similarly, while other DOT-regulated agencies provide a testing window of between 12 and 32 hours following an accident, the FRA indicates that testing should be conducted within four hours whenever possible.

The FRA also has specific rules for pre-employment, reasonable suspicion, return-to-duty, and follow-up tests.

Federal Transit Administration

The FTA includes its DOT drug testing regulations in 49 CFR, part 655.

The types of tests and their required procedures are found in subpart E.

Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA)

The PHMSA includes drug testing regulations for employers under 49 CFR, part 199.

The types of tests that must be administered and their procedures are found in § 199.105.

What are the DOT Drug Test Cut-off Levels for 2022?

The drug test cut-off levels are found in 49 CFR, part 40, § 40.87 as follows:

Initial Test Analyte Initial Test Cut-Off Confirmatory Test Cut-Off
Marijuana (THCA) 50 ng/mL 15 ng/mL
Cocaine (Benzoylecgonine 150 ng/mL 100 ng/mL
Codeine/morphine 2000 ng/mL 2000 ng/mL
Hydrocodone/hydromorphone 300 ng/mL 100 ng/mL
Oxycodone/oxymorphone 100 ng/mL 100 ng/mL
6-Acetylmorphone 10 ng/mL 10 ng/mL
Phencyclidine 25 ng/mL 25 ng/mL
Amphetamine/methamphetamine 500 ng/mL 250 ng/mL
MDMA/MDA 500 ng/mL 250 ng/mL

DOT Drug Test FAQs

1. What happens if you fail a DOT drug test?

What will happen if someone fails a DOT drug test depends on the type of test and their employer.

If an applicant fails a pre-employment DOT drug test, their conditional job offer will be withdrawn. The employer will report the failed drug test to the Clearinghouse.

If an employee fails a random, reasonable suspicion, or post-accident drug test, the employer will provide them with a list of DOT-approved SAPs for the return-to-duty process.

However, the employer is not required to return the employee to their job if they complete the return-to-duty process successfully.

If an employee fails a return-to-duty or follow-up drug test, they won’t be returned to their job and will lose their employment.

2. How far back does a DOT drug test go?

A DOT drug test checks for recent use of illicit substances. Each drug has a different detection window in urine tests as follows:

  • Marijuana – Less than 3 days for one-time use to 30 days for chronic users
  • Amphetamines – Two to three days
  • Cocaine – Up to 1.5 days for one time use to two-three days for chronic users
  • Opioids – Two to five days based on the substance
  • Phencyclidine – Eight days

3. How long do DOT drug test results take?

The results of negative DOT drug tests are typically available within 24 to 48 hours.

Results of positive DOT drug tests typically take between three and five days to reach the employers.

4. What’s the difference between a regular drug test and a DOT drug test?

A non-DOT test is a drug screen a non-regulated employer might choose to administer to employees under its drug- and alcohol-free drug-testing policy.

Non-DOT tests might test for more or fewer substances than a DOT drug test and could involve other testing methods, including saliva testing.

DOT drug tests are required by the DOT for regulated employers and are five-panel urine screens that must be administered under specific conditions.

5. What can I expect during my DOT drug test?

Your employer should disclose the fact that it performs drug testing and the circumstances under which the tests will be administered.

Applicants and employees who will undergo testing will sign written authorizations consenting to the test.

When an applicant or employee is sent for a DOT drug test at an approved facility, they will have to show their photo ID.

The testing facility will provide a written explanation of the testing procedure.

The collector will provide the individual with two sealed collection bottles.

The individual will then take the bottles into the testing area and must leave items outside of the area, including purses, coats, jackets,  etc.

Most DOT drug tests are not observed. However, return-to-duty and follow-up drug tests must be directly observed. The collector will also observe a test if there are signs of tampering.

The individual will produce a specimen into the bottle and should observe the bottle until it has been sealed and placed in the sealed bag for shipment to the laboratory.

iprospectcheck: Your Partner for Reliable Employment Drug Testing

DOT-regulated employers must conduct DOT drug tests on applicants and employees under specific conditions.

At iprospectcheck, we offer a variety of drug testing services, including pre-employment, random, reasonable suspicion, post-accident, return-to-duty, and follow-up DOT drug tests.

Call today to learn more about our DOT drug testing and background check services: (888) 509-1979

DISCLAIMER: The resources provided here are for educational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Consult your counsel if you have legal questions related to your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.

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About the Author
Matthew J. Rodgers

Matthew J. Rodgers

Matthew J. Rodgers is a highly accomplished business executive with over 30 years of experience providing strategic vision and leadership to companies ranging from the fortune 500 to iprospectcheck, a company which he co-founded over a decade ago. Matthew is a valued consultant who is dedicated to helping companies create and implement efficient, cost effective and compliant employment screening programs. Matt has been a member of the Professional Background Screeners Association since 2009 . When not focused on iprospectcheck, he can be found spending time with his family, fly fishing, or occasionally running the wild rivers of the American west. A lifetime member of American Whitewater, Matt is passionate about protecting and restoring America’s whitewater rivers.