DOT Drug and Alcohol Testing

The Department of Transportation regulates an enormous number of workers across the United States. Below is a brief overview of the regulations.

In 1991, the U.S. Congress passed the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act when they recognized the need for a drug and alcohol-free transportation industry. The act required DOT agencies to implement drug and alcohol testing of safety-sensitive employees to maintain the safety of the traveling public and workers.

The DOT’s drug screening rules and procedures are listed within Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 40, commonly known as “Part 40.” Link HereThese rules are published by an office within the DOT: the Office of Drug & Alcohol Policy & Compliance (ODAPC) and they update them periodically as procedures and drug panels adapt over time.

DOT agencies and the U.S. Coast Guard write industry-specific regulations that explain who is subject to testing, when, and in what situations. Industry employers are accountable to implement the regulations that apply to their business.

Who is required to get DOT drug tests?

Anyone designated in DOT regulations as a “safety-sensitive” employee is subject to DOT drug and alcohol testing. A safety-sensitive employee is someone who holds a job that can impact both their own safety and the safety of the public.

These are some of the DOT departments with safety-sensitive positions:

Here is a link to which has a simple set of questions to determine if you are a DOT covered entity.  

What do DOT drug tests test for?

All DOT regulated tests use the same panel of 5 drug classes, they are:

  • Marijuana metabolites/THC
  • Cocaine metabolites
  • Amphetamines (including methamphetamine, MDMA)
  • Opioids (including codeine, heroin (6-AM), morphine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, hydromorphone, and oxymorphone)
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)

DOT regulated drug tests must use urine samples, be run through an accredited laboratory and must be reviewed by a Medical Review Officer.

When are safety-sensitive employees required to get DOT drug tests?

DOT drug tests are required in the following situations:

Pre-employment - must have a negative drug test result verified before beginning any safety sensitive job responsibilities.

Reasonable suspicion/cause - if one or more trained supervisors reasonably believes/suspects that the employee is under the influence of drugs or alcohol while on duty. This must be based on observations concerning appearance, behavior, speech, smell, etc.

Post-accident testing - This is required if an DOT regulated employee is involved in an accident meeting certain DOT criteria. An alcohol test must occur within 8 hours of the accident, and a drug test within 32 hours.

Random testing - Random tests must use a truly random selection process – each employee must have an equal chance to be selected and must proceed to be tested immediately after being notified. These are completed quarterly.

Return-to-duty testing - required after a violation of drug and alcohol rules and after consulting with a Substance Abuse Professional (SAP). You must have a negative result before returning to any DOT job function. These tests must be conducted under direct observation.

Follow-up testing - takes place after a negative return-to-duty test. A SAP manages the follow-up testing for up to 5 years, determining how many times an employee is tested, and for what substance(s). These are completed in addition to other DOT required testing and must be conducted under direct observation.

What happens in the event of a positive DOT test?

If an employee fails a DOT regulated drug test, DOT regulations require the employer to immediately remove the employee from performing any DOT safety-sensitive job. If the employer has a ‘Zero Tolerance’ drug and alcohol policy they will need to terminate employment. If the employer has a ‘Rehabilitation’ drug and alcohol policy they may allow the employee to complete the return to work process while staying employed with the company in a non safety-sensitive role.

The employee cannot return to any DOT safety-sensitive function until they complete the return to work process.

PROCOM’s compliance team stays up-to-date on DOT regulations, and can ensure that your business maintains compliance. If you’re interested in using PROCOM’s regulated drug testing services, contact us here.