What is a DOT Drug Test?

What is a DOT Drug Test

The government, specifically the Department of Transportation, regulates what's known as a DOT drug test. Employees from different industries may be given these tests. In 1991, the United States Congress passed the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act because they realized how important it was for the transportation sector to be free of drugs and alcohol.

They wanted to ensure the safety of both workers and the traveling public. The act mandated that DOT agencies administer drug and alcohol tests to those who are responsible for maintaining safety. Let's take a look at the details of DOT drug tests below! 


Read on to discover:


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Who is Subject to DOT Drug Tests?

Workers Standing Next to an Airplane Waiting for Incoming Flight

The DOT's objective is to "hire operators who are 100 percent drug- and alcohol-free," according to the employee handbook on alcohol and drug testing policies. However, operators are not the only DOT personnel required to submit to drug testing. The testing requirements apply to any position that is deemed to be safety-sensitive. When deciding whether a position qualifies as safety-sensitive, the DOT considers what the person does rather than their job titles.

 Some safety-sensitive tasks include: 

  • Driving a truck
  • Working on a pipeline
  • Repairing an airplane
  • Operating a ferry, bus, or train

DOT drug testing is also mandated for workers like security guards and flight attendants. The rules apply to any position that entails duties that can have an impact on the security of passengers or employees in the transportation industry. 

Visit Transportation.gov to determine the criteria for your field or position. And, you can subscribe to their newsletter to receive notifications when something changes.


What Does the DOT Drug Test Consist Of?

Every drug test the DOT performs is a 5-panel test. This examines each person for the following 14 drugs:

  • Marijuana (THC)
  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamines
    • Methamphetamine
    • MDMA
    • MDA
  • Opioids
    • Codeine
    • Morphine
    • 6-AM (heroin)
    • Hydrocodone
    • Hydromorphone
    • Oxycodone
    • Oxymorphone
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)

The DOT requires urine samples for all drug tests, despite the fact that there are other options. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provides labs guidelines on the following cutoff levels for DOT drug test on their websites:

Initial test analyte Initial test cutoff  Confirmatory test analyte Confirmatory test cutoff concentration
Marijuana metabolites (THCA) 50 ng/mL THCA 15 ng/mL.
Cocaine metabolite (Benzoylecgonine)

150 ng/mL

Benzoylecgonine 100 ng/mL.



2000 ng/mL



2000 ng/mL.

2000 ng/mL.



300 ng/mL



100 ng/mL.

100 ng/mL.



100 ng/mL



100 ng/mL.

100 ng/mL.

6-Acetylmorphine 10 ng/mL 6-Acetylmorphine 10 ng/mL.
Phencyclidine 25 ng/mL Phencyclidine 25 ng/mL.



500 ng/mL



250 ng/mL.

250 ng/mL.

MDMA4/MDA 500 ng/mL



250 ng/mL.

250 ng/mL

Do They Watch You Pee for a DOT Drug Test?

People Watching Someone Do a Urine Drug Test


It depends. This is because, in a normal case scenario, you have the right to collect your urine sample unobserved. The only exception to this rule is if the person collecting the urine has a reason to believe you might alter or substitute the sample. Additional causes for someone to observe you gather your sample include the following:

  • At the location of specimen collection, the employee makes an attempt to tamper with the specimen.
  • The specimen's temperature is excessive and above the acceptable range;
  • The specimen exhibits tampering evidence, such as an odd color, odor, characteristic; or
  • The collector discovers something that looks to have been brought onto the site to taint a sample in the employee's pockets or wallet, or the collector observes behavior that points to tampering.
  • The Medical Review Officer (MRO) requests the direct observation because
  • The employee has some unusual laboratory results for which there is no valid medical explanation; or
  • Because the split specimen test could not be conducted, the employee's positive or refusal [adulterated / substituted] test result had to be canceled (for example, the split was not collected).
  • The test is either a Return-to-Duty test or a Follow-Up test.

Always remember that someone who is watching you must be of the same sex as you. Additionally, you must make sure to provide at least 45 milliliters of urine for a DOT drug test. If you can’t provide that much of a sample, you’ll be able to get 40 ounces of liquid to drink. Then you’ll have up to 3 hours to generate that much in one try (in that time you must remain at the site).

Read more about the DOT’s direct observation procedures here. 

How Far Back Does a DOT Drug Test Go?

How Far Back Does a Urine Drug Test Go


Depending on the drug and how much of it you ingest, the days a urine test can detect it in your body will vary. Below you can see the five drugs tested for in DOT drug tests and their detection times:


This may be different for everyone since urine tests may detect marijuana 1-5 days after occasional use, 1-3 weeks in regular users, and 4-6 weeks in multiple daily users. Then other factors like body fat and metabolism can also affect the number of days it can be found.

Therefore, your best bet is to just stop smoking, and eating marijuana as soon as you find out about your upcoming test. You can do a THC detox or other THC detoxing practices that may help speed up that cleansing. 


Cocaine or its metabolites frequently persist in urine samples for up to 3 days after the last usage. A heavy user may show up positive for up to 2 weeks on a urine test. But other elements including metabolism, weight, dose, and frequency of use can affect how long it stays in a person's body. Drinking while using cocaine may also make it take longer for the drug to leave the body


Amphetamine is a drug that acts as a stimulant to your central nervous system. For 1 to 3 days after you take it, it may still be detectable in your urine. Methamphetamine (meth), Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), and other designer variants of amphetamines will also show up on a test if you’ve taken them recently. 


Depending on the opioid, a urine test reveals consumption during the previous 1–3 days. Some opioids may remain detectable for less than a day after usage. On the other hand, a few may remain detectable for up to 3 days. The test cutoff (refer to the DOT drug test cutoff level above) may also affect this time frame.

 Phencyclidine (PCP)

Several tests can be used to find PCP in the user's system- the urine test being the most common. Between 4 and 6 hours after use, these tests can detect PCP in the body with a fair degree of accuracy. In other cases, a urine test can detect PCP from 7 to 14 days after use.


What Happens If You Fail a DOT Drug Test?

What Happens When You Fail a Drug Test


There are two situations that may end up with a “failed” drug test. These are non-positive and positive drug tests. Let’s get into the nitty gritty below.

Non-positive drug test

A positive drug test is initially regarded as non-negative until it has been reviewed by a medical review officer (MRO). The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Clearinghouse will also record the violation if the driver:

  • Has a commercial driver's license (CDL); or
  • A commercial learner's permit (CLP); and
  • The infraction happened on or after January 6, 2020. 

This offers you the chance to provide the necessary supporting evidence, such as a legal medication prescription, to explain the favorable outcome.

The outcome changes to a negative DOT drug test if the MRO confirms that your prescription(s) are legitimate. Otherwise, the test is deemed positive and is recorded in the Clearinghouse as a violation if the MRO cannot accept your presented proof.

Depending on corporate policies, how this affects your work status can change. You might not get any more safety-sensitive responsibilities while the inquiry is ongoing and a decision is being made in order to protect your safety. 

Keep in mind that by ingesting CBD products you may also end up with a positive DOT drug test. That’s because CBD products aren’t regulated by the FDA and they contain levels of THC. For that reason, the DOT released a CBD notice that goes over the rules regarding CBD products.

Positive drug test 

All your DOT safety-sensitive employment responsibilities will be taken away if you cannot provide a valid prescription as a medical justification for a positive test. Then the business policy will determine what will happen with your employment. Note: this isn’t necessarily immediate termination.

Your company might already have a procedure in place to finish a program with a certified DOT Substance Abuse Professional (SAP), as required by the DOT as part of the Return to Duty (RTD) procedure.

You will be expected to submit to an observed DOT drug test after finishing the SAP phase of the RTD process. If your test comes back negative, you’ll be able to return to working in a DOT safety-sensitive position again.

 Additionally, you’ll need to agree to take at least 6 unannounced DOT follow-up drug tests over the following 12 months. During these drug test collections, someone will be observing you. Depending on the instruction the qualified DOT SAP gives the employer, the unannounced testing may go on for up to 5 years.

In the end, if you fail a DOT drug test, your only option is to agree to work with a qualified DOT Substance Abuse Professional. They’ll evaluate your situation and recommend what treatment or studies you’ll need to complete. Once you complete everything, the SAP will reexamine your ability to go back to work.

Work smart, not high 

Keeping yourself safe as well as others when working in a safety-sensitive job, is crucial. Nobody wants anyone to get hurt simply because of drugs and the decision to take them. The best way the Department of Transportation can ensure 100% safety, is by performing DOT drug tests. Now that you have all the answers to your “what is a DOT drug test” question, you’ll be ready to pass your drug test with flying colors. Have some more questions? Ask us below and we’ll get back to you via email!



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This totally makes sense, especially for tasks that require full concentration. People need to be at their best for dangerous jobs!

Jennifer Prince

Hihi….I like the last part of your review….“work smart and not high”! Thank you for sharing about this test.

Ntensibe Edgar

This is really interesting, and it’s something that I will have to look into investing in for personal use!


Thank you for including how long the drug has to be out of your system in order to now show up on the test. I know for those who use marijuana medically it can be a big concern during DOT tests.


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