DOT Compliance Testing For Truckers – Everything You Need to Know

A primary component of your safety relies on the Department of Transportation, or DOT Compliance as well as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA). In order to comply, the DOT requires all Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) holders go through DOT drug testing. This can include testing for illicit substances including alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, opiates, amphetamines, methamphetamine, MDMA, MDEA, MDA, opiates/morphine, heroin, codeine, and phencyclidine. A DOT drug test checks for five of the previously mentioned drugs and is referred to as a 5-panel screen. This includes marijuana, cocaine, opiates, amphetamines and methamphetamines, and PCP. Benzodiazepines, barbiturates, methadone, propoxyphene, Quaaludes, hallucinogens, anabolic steroids, prescription painkillers, and ecstasy are tested for in Non-DOT drug tests.

Drugs and metabolites are primarily tested for using urine specimens, and alcohol may be tested for using breath and saliva tests. In the past 5 years the most found substances from DOT testing for commercial motor vehicle drivers was marijuana and amphetamines. Overall, positive results still are low for commercial drivers.

Why Undergo DOT Drug Testing

Employees working sensitive positions or environments in DOT jurisdiction must undergo a urine drug test. One sensitive job happens to be, you guessed it, truck drivers. Safety-sensitive employees are prohibited from use of alcohol or any illicit job while assigned to or performing functions. They must not report for service or be on duty if they are under the influence or impaired by alcohol or illicit substance. Most employees, particularly truck drivers, cannot use alcohol within four hours of reporting for their job. You can understand why these jobs would require a sobered individual. You also cannot and should not take anything that is not prescribed and cannot refuse or tamper with the tests.

After you test out for your CDL, regardless of the company you work for you will be required to pass a drug screen. As a new hire your employer may additionally conduct alcohol testing as well. Trucking employers are legally mandated to test all drivers before allowing any personnel to operate a commercial vehicle. Owner operators are also subject to random drug testing consortiums and must give random tests depending on company size.

Typically, most trucking companies will automatically administer tests to all drivers involved in an accident for insurance purposes. The FMCSA will usually require DOT drug testing on specific incident basis. It is important to note that DOT Compliance is essential to avoiding accidents in the first place. As a CDL driver the circumstances in which you may not require a test include a couple different scenarios. The first would be bodily injury with immediate medical treatment away from the scene. The second would be disabling damage to any motor vehicle requiring tow away. Otherwise, citations are typically issued, and a test must be performed by your employer. Circumstances that involve tests can include a few scenarios. Bodily injury with immediate medical treatment away from the scene is the first. Disabling damage to any motor vehicle requiring tow away will also call for a drug test. And lastly, in the unfortunate case of death, a drug test would also be administered for all parties involved.

If testing positive for a substance, you must go through a return-to-duty process from the Department of Transportation. This also applies if you refuse a drug test. You may be subject to an immediate test if your supervisor or employer suspects you are under the influence. “Return-to-duty” involves seeing a substance abuse professional and a drug test, followed by 6 random tests over 12 months. To avoid false positive tests, it is important to have proof of prescription for your medications readily available for verification.

Drug Testing: Urine Testing Vs Hair Follicle Testing

In recent years urine testing has been the standard protocol for all trucking companies. However, the general standard is possibly moving towards hair follicle testing because it has proven more reliable. Illegal substances remain in hair longer than urine – whether this method may become federal law is still a toss up. Nonetheless, there has been a steady increase in transition from urine to follicle testing in line with DOT compliance.

There is a difference between DOT drug tests and non-DOT drug tests. DOT drug testing is done at labs certified by the Department of Health and Human Services. They publish a list of certified labs every month. Non-DOT drug testing programs may test for a wider variety of drugs and may test more than urine or hair.

DOT Compliance Test

Once you are notified to submit a drug test, there is a general course of action to take. First, you will be given your reason why (new hire, random, accident, etc.). You are then to report to the collection site and during urine collection you must verify ID and empty pockets. You then provide 45 mL of urine, and your collector will check the temperature, then divide and seal 2 samples. The kit supplied is intuitive and gives more detailed instructions that are fairly easy to understand. The samples are then sent to a lab for testing, and results are sent to a medical review officer (MRO). To keep the integrity of the drug testing process, the MRO reviews the results and will interview you and review your medical records. They may also request for you to be examined by an approved physician. Once you receive a notice from your MRO, you then have 72 hours from the MRO interview to request the second sample to be tested. At the end of the process, your MRO will verify your results to your employer as either negative, positive, refusal or cancelled.

Trucking and DOT Drug Testing in 2020

As of now, considering COVID-19, there have been slight changes to allow employers more freedom and flexibility with testing. With the virus posing a unique threat to everyday life, it is only appropriate to allow leeway for everyone. DOT urges employers to do the best they can with still adhering to the set procedures. Likewise, they have been more understanding if requirements cannot exactly be met as of late. Like tax extensions, DOT is providing breathing space for employers should they not be able to meet sufficient testing rates. Random tests have been made more flexible and able to be made up for by the year’s end.

All in all it is important that at the end of the day, the rules are followed. The more rules broken, the longer the system will draw itself out. It is best to just focus on DOT compliance, take drug tests when needed, and complete them to the best of your ability. Adhering to the preset guidelines ensures a safe and potentially fun work environment for you. Not only that, but it also builds a more optimal, and more safe world for the world around you. As important as job as a truck driver is, it is critical that ideal safety is strived for every single day. Keep it simple, keep it safe, and happy trucking. One step at a time, the road will be yours – it just starts with a couple tests, that’s all.

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