Did your current employer recently ask you to do a DOT drug test, or is it a re-employment requisite? If it is your first time hearing such a drug test, this article tells you everything you need to know about DOT urine drug testing guidelines 2023 – and how to pass it.

DOT Drug Test

What is a DOT Drug Test? In What Cases Does It Take Place?

DOT drug test is regulated by the US government, especially by the Department of Transportation (DOT) for its employees. This drug test ensures that people within the DOT are free of any drugs and alcohol in their bodies.

These employees & applicants need to take DOT drug tests:

  • Air traffic controllers
  • Aircraft dispatchers
  • Airline flight personnel
  • Bus; truck drivers
  • Pipeline/hazardous materials workers
  • Train service employees
  • U.S. Coast Guard members

DOT drug test is a five-panel drug screen, which requires lab testing for different classes of drugs. Some may be required to do DOT drug tests if they are suspicious members, return-to-duty testing, follow-ups, post-accident testing, or just random drug testing.

DOT VS. Non-DOT Drug Test

Keeping the workplace safe is crucial, and drug testing is a way of ensuring this. But, when it comes to DOT and non-DOT drug testing, what sets them apart? Simply put, DOT drug tests are specifically designed for employees regulated by certain DOT administrative agencies. In contrast, non-DOT drug tests are conducted at the employer’s discretion and may include specific drug classes.

DOT also regulates the methods and processes for its drug and alcohol tests through 49 CFR Part 40. Only employees under DOT-administered agencies are required to follow these rules. These agencies include:

  • Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulates the trucking industry in the United States. FMCSA follows the regulations in 49 CFR Part 382.
  • Federal Aviation Administration regulates all aspects of civil aviation in the country. The FAA follows this file 14 CFR Part 120 for its DOT drug test regulations.
  • The Federal Railroad regulates the movement of people and goods. FRA has its regulations written on the file 49 CFR Part 219
  • U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) has three files: 46 CFR Part 4, 46 CFR Part 16, 33 CFR Part 95
  • Federal Transit Authority (FTA)follows file 49 CFR Part 655
  • Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is responsible for developing and enforcing regulations for hazardous products. The PHMSA follows this file 49 CFR Part 199 for its DOT drug test.

In contrast, non-DOT drug tests follow state regulations, which means the rules and procedures may vary by state. DOT and non-DOT drug tests differ in terms of regulations and who they are designed for. Stay informed with this quick comparison.

Let’s Compare

DOT Drug Test Non-DOT Drug Test
Aimed for DOT-regulated employees only and regulated by DOT. This can be done by different sectors other than DOT.
It is a 5-panel drug test. This can involve other drugs and alcohol, more than 5 substances, depending on the employer.
Follows the rules set by the DOT. Follows the rules set by the state-level regulations.
DOT testing almost always uses urine specimens. Non-DOT testing may use urine, hair, or saliva-based on state regulations and employer preference.
DOT testing follows federal requirements and uses the standardized Federal Drug Testing Control and Custody Form (CCF). This form may be determined by the state, employer, or drug testing company.
Any DOT employee is required to take this test, which covers pre-employment, random testing, post-accident testing, reasonable suspicion, return-to-duty, and follow-up testing. It is not always a requirement for some employers. Some positions that may require drug tests are those responsible for keeping the public safe. It includes law enforcers, police officers, firefighters, and EMTs.

DOT Drug Test Procedure

Urine Test procedure

Here’s a rundown of the urine drug test process:

  1. Bring proper identification: Make sure to have a valid photo ID and feel free to ask for the collector’s ID as well.
  2. Review the procedure: You’ll receive a written explanation of the testing process which you must read and follow step by step, as each DOT agency has its own regulations.
  3. Get the right materials: The collector will provide you with clean, single-use specimen bottles with caps or lids. Once you’ve collected your urine, make sure to wrap and seal it appropriately to avoid contamination.
  4. Check the collection area: Make sure the collection area is empty and secure from the time you start collecting urine to the final sealing and shipping of the container.

For a UA test, the collection site could be a doctor’s office, clinic, or other safe location. Regardless of the site, it should be secure to properly produce and transport the urine specimen. The DOT drug test requires at least 45 milliliters of urine.

Alternatively, a saliva test uses a mouth swab to collect a specimen. Results for both tests may take up to 48 hours to come back from the collection date.

Saliva Test Procedure

According to Freight Waves, the implementation of the DOT saliva drug test for employees will be established across the US starting in the summer of 2023. It involves the following explanation:

  • Delay due to lack of certified labs: The absence of approved oral fluid testing labs has postponed the implementation. Certification by the Department of Health and Human Services is required before employers can adopt this method.
  • Alternative to urine testing: Oral fluid testing is an additional option, not a replacement for urine tests. Employers can choose between oral fluid and urine tests, with the decision made by the employer, not the employee.
  • Benefits of oral fluid testing: Once approved, oral fluid testing can save carriers money by reducing travel time. Collection can occur at or near the workplace, unlike urine testing which requires separate facilities.
  • Training requirements: Training for oral fluid specimen collection is less intensive than urine collection. With inherent observation, there is minimal risk of tampering. Virtual training using videos or modules may suffice.
  • Privacy concerns: The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association emphasizes prioritizing drivers’ privacy rights, addressing issues like electronic tracking and cybersecurity protection.
  • Sample flexibility: Employers can switch samples if an employee can’t provide enough urine or saliva, avoiding additional procedures like drinking fluids or waiting.
  • Detection window: Oral-fluid testing has a shorter detection window for certain drugs compared to urine analysis. Positive rates from oral fluids are comparable or even higher, according to data from a major testing company.

    What Drugs Are Tested?

    DOT drug tests detect 5 types of drugs. It includes the following:

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

    DOT Urine Drug Test Cut-Off Levels

    The 49 CFR, part 40 file provides drug test cut-off levels:

    The table below presents the cut-off levels for initial and confirmatory tests for various substances, along with a brief description of each substance:

    Analyte Initial Test Cut-Off Confirmatory Test Cut-Off Description
    Marijuana (THCA) 50 ng/mL 15 ng/mL Chemical found in cannabis with psychoactive properties.
    Cocaine (Benzoylecgonine) 150 ng/mL 100 ng/mL Powerful stimulant derived from coca plant leaves.
    Codeine/morphine 2000 ng/mL 2000 ng/mL Opioids commonly used for pain relief and cough suppression.
    Hydrocodone/hydromorphone 300 ng/mL 100 ng/mL Medications prescribed for moderate to severe pain.
    Oxycodone/oxymorphone 100 ng/mL 100 ng/mL Strong painkillers used to manage severe pain.
    6-Acetylmorphone 10 ng/mL 10 ng/mL Metabolite of opioid drugs such as heroin and morphine.
    Phencyclidine 25 ng/mL 25 ng/mL A hallucinogenic drug is commonly known as PCP.
    Amphetamine/methamphetamine 500 ng/mL 250 ng/mL Stimulant drugs that affect the central nervous system.
    MDMA/MDA 500 ng/mL 250 ng/mL Recreational drugs are known as ecstasy and love drug, respectively.

    The initial test cut-off represents the minimum concentration required for a positive result in the initial screening, while the confirmatory test cut-off denotes the threshold for confirmation in a more specific and accurate test.


    How much does a drug test cost? The employer often pays for the DOT drug test and the time spent having it. However, it may only be applicable to existing employees. Meanwhile, if it’s for pre-employment purposes, you may have to pay about $36.00 before taking the test.

    What Are The Windows Of Detection For DOT Drug Tests?

    The expected times during which one can test for and find drug molecules and metabolites in tissues and physiological fluids above the cut-off levels are known as drug detection windows.

    Generally, the detection window for most substances is about 2 to 3 days. There’s no definite time how long the substance would remain detectable in the body. It also depends on other factors:

    1. The drug’s half-life – Some drugs stay in the system for several hours after use, while others last for days or weeks.
    2. Body mass, physical activity, and hydration – The amount of physical activity, body weight, and hydration level all affect how long drugs will remain detectable. Because more drugs and metabolites build up in their tissues, a person with a larger body mass is likelier to have a longer detection time.
    3. Metabolism – Substances taken orally go through the digestive tract, and people with a slower metabolism may have a longer drug window.
    4. Age – Age and metabolism are correlated with one another. Generally, a person’s liver and kidneys will be less effective at digesting alcohol or narcotics as they age. As a result, the chemicals will stay in your system longer as you age.

    How Are The Results Of The Dot Drug Test Interpreted?

    DOT drug test can detect any substances that is present in the body after taking a drug. A metabolite gets left behind once the body digests and breaks down the drug. Drugs can still be present in the urine for days up to months after the last consumption. It depends on several variables, including the quantity and frequency of drug usage.

    Practical Advice On How To Pass The DOT Drug Test

    If you need to submit a random DOT drug test, stay on top of it. Use these five best practices when conducting DOT random drug tests at your place of employment:

    • Drink a lot of water. Staying well-hydrated may allow you to reduce the level of THC in your urine modestly. Drink 8 glasses of water days before your test. Also, drink 3 to 4 glasses on the morning of your test.
    • Avoid foods that can cause false positives. Some foods can cause a failed drug test. It includes meals, beverages, and prescription drugs with the right molecules and metabolites. Some foods include poppy seeds, pizza, durian, hemp seeds, coca tea, and tonic water.
    • Don’t use any substances or medicines that may influence tests. Several over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, prescription drugs, and herbal therapies may appear illicit in drug tests. Make a complete inventory of all your prescriptions and give it to your employer together with any necessary supporting documents to ensure that your drug test does not result in a false positive for drugs like amphetamines, which include some decongestants.
    • Avoid using mouthwash for the time being. Ethanol, a simple grain alcohol, is common in many liquid pharmaceuticals, vanilla extract, and breath-freshening products. Even trace amounts of alcohol can be detected by modern drug tests and for extended periods of time.
    • Use some detox products. You can also try detox to ensure that some drugs are flushed off of your system by using this 10-Day Detox Program. It contains 150 toxin rid pills, 1 oz of dietary fiber, and 1 fluid oz of detox liquid that you must take in 10 days.


    Let’s check some of the most commonly asked questions about DOT drug tests.

    What Does 12-Panel Drug Test For?

    A 12-panel drug test is a sort of drug screening that looks for several drugs in a person’s urine, saliva, or hair sample. Employers, groups, and medical health professionals frequently utilize it to spot drug usage and guarantee security in public places like the workplace.

    Can A DOT Drug Test Be Wrong?

    Recent data indicates that, on average, there is a 5% to 10% chance of false positives and a 10% to 15% chance of false negatives. Learn about the implications of these findings, and what you can do to guarantee a successful outcome.

    What Happens When You Fail A DOT Drug Test?

    Failing a DOT-regulated drug test can have significant repercussions. DOT regulations command that any worker who fails a drug test under their jurisdiction must be promptly dismissed from performing DOT safety-sensitive jobs. If you do not pass a DOT drug test, your employer may remove you from safety-sensitive tasks or ever termination from the job.

    I Took a Drug Test Friday, When Should I Know the Results?

    How long do drug test results take? It could take 24 up to 48 hours for the results to get released – depending on the type of drug test you’ll do.

    Bottom Line

    The DOT drug test is essential to safeguarding worker safety in transportation-related sectors. Employees can pass the test while contributing to a safer work environment by abiding by DOT laws and taking proactive steps to maintain a drug-free lifestyle. Understanding the intent and requirements of the DOT drug test enables people to prioritize their well-being and make educated decisions. More importantly, prepare yourself for what can be detected in a urine test.