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Safety and Testing: How to Use DOT Drug Testing to Stay Compliant

DOT Drug Testing

It’s estimated that each year approximately 5,936 people are killed in accidents involving medium to large trucks. What’s more, an additional 160,608 injuries occur because of these accidents.

While some of these accidents are simply related to driver error, the reality is that a good portion of them are caused by alcohol or drug use. That’s why the Department of Transportation has such strict standards regarding drug testing.

If you manage a fleet, you must stay compliant with DOT drug testing.

So, what types of drug tests do you need to provide with your CDL drivers? And how do you set up a DOT-approved drug testing program? In this guide, we’ll answer these questions so you can prevent potential accidents on the road. 

Why Is DOT Drug Testing Important? 

There are a lot of reasons why CDL drivers might take drugs. It could be to relieve boredom on the road or to get an energy burst while driving. Regardless of the reason, this type of behavior is incredibly dangerous.

According to the NIH, approximately 44% of individuals involved in accident fatalities were found with drugs in their system. And because most CDL drivers operate huge trucks, the potential for fatalities with any accident is even higher.

That’s why the DOT has such strict regulations regarding drug testing for these safety-sensitive positions.

When you engage in proper DOT drug testing, you can prevent expensive accidents from taking place while protecting other drivers on the road. By creating DOT-compliant workplaces, you can also avoid costly fines. 

What Types of Drug Tests Are CDL Drivers Subject To?  

According to DOT regulations, drug tests are not a one-and-done affair. Instead, the agency requires numerous types of drug tests during a person’s employment. 

In this section, we’ll walk you through the six different types you need to be aware of. 


Whenever you bring a new member on your team, the first thing you should do is drug test them. 

They will need a negative result to get behind commercial vehicles. Keep in mind that if they’ve been removed from the random testing pool for more than a period of thirty days, they’ll need to be tested again. 


Not all accidents are caused by drug use. However, the DOT still needs to make sure of this. As such, after an accident, a driver must go through both drug and alcohol testing. 

This only applies to certain types of accidents that result in fatalities, injuries, or disabled vehicles. While the alcohol testing needs to occur within eight hours of the accident, the drug test can wait for up to forty-eight hours. 

Random Testing

All CDL drivers can be subjected to random testing. This will involve pulling names randomly from a pool on at least a quarterly basis. This will occur either when the driver is on-duty, or before or after their shift.

Once selected, the person needs to report immediately to a drug testing facility. If they don’t show up, or they’re majorly delayed, it will count as a positive test.

Reasonable Suspicion 

Sometimes a person might be exhibiting signs that they’re abusing drugs or alcohol on the job. This might be apparent in their driving behavior, appearance, speech, or smell. If at any point a supervisor suspects drug use, they can order the individual to report to a testing facility for a drug screening.  

Return-to-Duty and Follow-Up

If someone tests positive, they’ll likely be suspended for some time. After that, they can return to driving if they pass a return-to-duty test. This is only the first half of the testing they’ll need to go through.

The other half involves a follow-up of six unannounced tests that were directly observed. This will take place over a year. 

Which Drugs Are Tested?

According to the DOT, there are five specific types of drugs they test for. These include things like: 

  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Opiates (derivatives of either codeine or opium
  • Methamphetamines or amphetamines
  • Phencyclidine or PCP

There are some gray areas when it comes to testing. For example, technically the DOT does allow for the use of CBD. Unfortunately, many CBD products are improperly labeled, which means they could show up on a drug test.

Similarly, since Adderall is considered an amphetamine, it can also be flagged by drug tests. Even if a driver has a prescription, you will likely also need to prove that they’re using the substance as prescribed and not abusing it.

It’s also important to note that the DOT will only accept urine tests. As such, avoid things like blood, saliva, or hair tests. 

How Do You Set Up a DOT Drug Testing Program?

When setting up a DOT drug program at your workplace, the first thing you need is a Designated Employer Representative (or DER). Choose someone on your team who can become well-versed in all DOT regulations.

 This person will be in charge of the decisions related to both testing and potential violations. Next, you’ll need to choose a service agent. This will need to be a drug testing consortium that’s been approved by the DOT.

These professionals will handle the details of the drug testing process. Additionally, you want to provide all of your drivers with education regarding the reasons for testing. 

You should also teach them which drugs are tested for and the violations they’ll receive if they’re caught. While setting up a drug testing program can require some effort, it’s important to remember that they come with a variety of benefits outside of compliance. 

This includes things like improved performance, reduced healthcare costs, reduced instances of theft, and more. As such, it’s worth putting the time and effort into it. 

Need a Qualified Third-Party Drug Test Provider? Contact ReliaLab Test

We hope this guide helped you learn more about DOT drug testing. We know that setting up a drug testing program can seem like a lot of work. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. 

Here at ReliaLab Test, we pride ourselves on being a full-service DOT drug testing consortium solution company. We handle everything for you – from finding a good location for testing to the drug test itself – in a way that’s quick, affordable, and convenient. 

So if you’re ready to set up your DOT drug testing program, get in touch with us today. 

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