A DOT drug test is often mandatory for transportation employees, across all modes of transport including air, water, roads, rails and pipeline industry. The DOT through the Omnibus Act of 1991 has laid out a set of rules and regulations to actively deter drug abuse as well as alcohol abuse among transportation personnel performing safety sensitive duties. Employees are responsible for knowing which of their employees are subject to these regulations.
Those workers that fall under Department of Transportation regulations are given a specific type of drug test. It is often a five panel test often referred to simply as a 'DOT drug screen' and the chain of custody (COC) used must be a federal form.

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

Employee Handbook published by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to assist safety-sensitive employees subject to workplace drug & alcohol testing in understanding the requirements of 49 CFR Part 40 and certain DOT agency regulations. It addresses some key questions such as ' Who is subject to DOT testing?', 'What drugs does DOT test for?',' What conduct is prohibited by the regulations?' and many such relevant points.

Types of Drug Tests

The US DOT requires employers to check prospective employers for drug & alcohol abuse, especially those employees who are engaged in safety-sensitive operations or duties. The various types of drug tests required are listed below.

  • DOT Urine Drug Testing
  • Pre-Employment Drug Testing
  • Random Drug Testing
  • Post Accident Drug Testing
  • Probable Cause/Reasonable Suspicion Drug Testing
  • Return To Duty Drug Testing
  • Follow-Up Drug Testing

Prohibited Drugs

The US Department of Transportation (DOT) has a list of drugs that are prohibited for use while performing safety sensitive operations. Employees are stringently tested for these drugs. The complete list has been given below.

  • Amphetamine/ Speed/ Ecstasy/XTC/ ADAM/ Lover's speed
  • Methamphetamine/ Ice/ Crystal/ Crank
  • MDMA (Methylenedioxymethamphetamine)/ Speed
  • Cocaine/ Coke/ Crack/ Rock cocaine
  • Marijuana/Cannabinoids/ Dope/ Weed/ Hemp/ Hash/ Colombian/ Sinsemilla
  • Phencyclidine/ PCP/ Angel dust/ Codeine
  • Heroin/ Smack/ Tar/ Chasing the tiger
  • Methadone/ Fizzies/ Propoxyphene
  • Barbiturates/ Downers/ Barbs/ Goof balls/ Reds/ Yellow jackets
  • Benzodiazepines/ Bennies
  • Urine Ethyl Alcohol/ Liquor/ Distilled spirits/ Beer/ Wine/ Booze/ Hooch In serum /Plasma

DOT Urine Drug Test Requirements

The DOT has specified certain requirements regarding how the urine drug test should be conducted.

  • Certified & Trained Collectors - Only certified and trained personnel are allowed to act as specimen collectors. The collector must be knowledgeable about the current "DOT Urine Specimen Collection Procedures Guidelines," and DOT agency regulations applicable to the employers for whom the collections are performed.
  • Secure collection site, equipment and privacy - The urine collection site must have all the necessary personnel, materials, equipment, facilities and supervision to provide for the collection, temporary storage, and shipping of urine specimens to a laboratory, and a suitable clean surface for writing. Collectors and operators of the collection site need to ensure the integrity of the collections, prevent unauthorized access, secure areas and items, as well as provide privacy to the employees during the specimen collection procedure
  • HHS certified laboratories - The laboratories that analyze the urine specimens must be located in the US and certified by HHS under the National Laboratory Certification Program (NLCP) as per the DOT regulations. CCF form for every specimen documentation -The Federal Drug Testing Custody and Control Form (CCF) must be used to document every urine collection required by the DOT drug testing program. The CCF must be a five-part carbonless manifold form.
  • Sufficient Shipping Protection for specimens- A shipping container that adequately protects the specimen bottles from shipment damage in the transport of specimens from the collection site to the laboratory is required.

Split Specimen Samples

The DOT also requires that urine drug testing procedures involve split specimens. Each urine specimen collected from the employee is sub divided into two bottles labeled - 'primary' and 'split' specimen. Both bottles are sent to an HHS certified laboratory. The primary specimen is opened and used by the lab technician for the urine analysis whereas the split specimen bottle is kept sealed and stored at the laboratory.

If the analysis of the primary specimen turns out positive, meaning that it confirms the presence of illegal, controlled substances, then as per the rules, the employee has 72 hours to request the split specimen to be sent to another DHHS-certified laboratory for analysis. This split specimen procedure essentially provides employees with a second chance.

What drugs are tested for in a urine sample?

As per DOT rules all urine specimens are analyzed for the following drugs:

  • Marijuana (THC metabolite)
  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamines
  • Opiates (including heroin)
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)

Generally the testing is a two-stage process. First, a screening test is performed. If it is positive for one or more of the drugs, then a confirmation test is performed for each identified drug using state-of-the-art gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) analysis. GC/MS confirmation quantifies specific positive results.

MRO's review and interpret the laboratory results

All drug test results are reviewed and interpreted by a physician - Medical Review Officer (MRO) before they are reported to the employer. If the laboratory reports a positive result to the MRO, the MRO contacts the employee (in person or by telephone) and conducts an interview to determine if there is an alternative medical explanation for the drugs found in the employee's urine specimen. If the employee provides appropriate documentation and the MRO determines that it is legitimate medical use of the prohibited drug, the drug test result is reported to the employer.

What are the consequences of a positive test?

The employee should be removed from safety-sensitive duty immediately if he/she has a positive drug test result. The removal cannot take place until the MRO has interviewed the employe and determined that the positive drug test resulted from the unauthorized use of a controlled substance.
The employee cannot return to safety-sensitive duties until he/she has been evaluated by a substance abuse professional, has complied with recommended rehabilitation, and has a negative result on a return-to-duty drug test. Follow-up testing to monitor the employee's continued abstinence from drug use is also required.

Are urine drug test results/records confidential?

Yes. Employee drug testing results and records are maintained under strict confidentiality by the employer, the drug-testing laboratory, and the medical review officer. They cannot be released to others without the written consent of the driver. Exceptions to these confidentiality provisions are limited to a decision maker in arbitration, litigation or administrative proceedings arising from a positive drug test. Statistical records and reports are maintained by employers and drug testing laboratories. This information is aggregated data and is used to monitor compliance with the rules and to assess the effectiveness of the drug testing programs.
The intention of the DOT to implement such stringent procedures, rules and regulations for drug testing is to actively discourage drug abuse in workplaces. An employee performing safety sensitive duties under the influence of banned substances will l pose a threat not only to his/her own safety but also to the safety of those around.

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