Skip to content

Do Truck Drivers Get Drug Tested?

Do truck drivers get drug tested? Yes! Truck driving is a regulated profession that requires drug testing because of the safety-sensitive nature of the job.

If you’re thinking about getting your commercial driver’s license (CDL) so you can become a truck driver, here’s an overview of the drug testing requirements you’ll be subject to.

How Often Do Truck Drivers Get Drug Tested?

How Often Do Truck Drivers Get Drug Tested?

Truck drivers can face a lot of drug and alcohol testing.

All truck drivers have to pass a Department of Transportation (DOT) drug and alcohol test before they can drive a truck for a new employer.

Employers have a legal duty to test their new drivers, and drug and alcohol tests are part of the pre-employment candidate selection process.

The pre-employment drug test isn’t the only drug test that truck drivers have to contend with. As a truck driver you’re also subject to reasonable suspicion drug tests, random drug tests, post-accident drug tests, Return-to-Duty drug tests, and follow-up drug tests.

Let’s look at each one.

Pre-Employment Drug And Alcohol Testing

Trucking companies carry out drug and alcohol testing on all new hires. This is a legal requirement and they’re not allowed to let a driver operate a commercial motor vehicle without first receiving a negative test result.

If you’re hoping to attend a truck driving school operated by a trucking company, you’ll usually need to pass a drug test before the school will admit you.

Reasonable Suspicion Drug And Alcohol Testing

Reasonable suspicion testing takes place if a DOT-trained supervisor or company official believes you show signs of drug or alcohol use while you’re operating a vehicle, about to operate a vehicle, or have just finished operating a vehicle.

For reasonable suspicion alcohol testing, DOT regulations state that the suspicion of alcohol use must be based on “specific, contemporaneous, articulable observations concerning the appearance, behavior, speech or body odors of the driver.”

What does that mean? Well, it means that a supervisor can’t simply assert that they think you’re drunk.

“Specific and articulable observations” means that they must be able to say why they suspect you’re under the influence of alcohol. They can’t just have a hunch.

The observable factors they cite must occur at the same time (be contemporaneous). They couldn’t claim that you acted clumsy last Thursday and today you seem a bit tired.

The same parameters exist for the suspicion of drug use, and they’re extended further to include observations of the chronic effects of drug use and drug withdrawal symptoms.

For example, if a driver’s appearance changed over time and began to resemble the appearance of a regular methamphetamine user, then the observation of chronic effects of drug use would be grounds for a reasonable suspicion drug test.

There’s a wide range of factors that could trigger a reasonable suspicion drug test. Here are some examples:

  • Slurred speech
  • Clumsiness/uncoordinated movements
  • Lethargy
  • Smelling of drugs or alcohol
  • Excessive weight loss
  • Deterioration in personal hygiene
  • Bloodshot eyes

A reasonable suspicion drug or alcohol test could also be required if drugs, drug paraphernalia, or alcohol are seen in your vehicle.

Also Read: Do Cops Get Drug Tested?

Random Drug Testing

All CDL holders are subject to random drug and alcohol testing. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sets the rate for random drug and alcohol testing, and currently, employers are required to randomly test a minimum of 50% of their drivers for drugs and 10% of their drivers for alcohol each quarter – 4 times a year.

Employers can choose to test more of their drivers if they want to, but even at the mandated rate, there’s a good chance you’ll be selected for an unannounced random drug or alcohol test at some point during the year.

Random drug tests can be ordered at any time, even when you’re off duty, while random alcohol tests can only be ordered while you’re working or shortly before or after your shift.

When you’re selected for a random drug test, you’re expected to report to the testing site immediately.

Interesting Topic: Do CDL Schools Drug Test

Post Accident Drug And Alcohol Testing

If you’re involved in an accident there are certain circumstances when a drug or alcohol test is required by the DOT. Your employer may also have extra requirements.

DOT drug and alcohol testing is mandated for truck drivers after an accident when:

  • There is a human fatality
  • There is a bodily injury requiring medical treatment away from the scene and the truck driver has received a citation.
  • There is disabling damage to any vehicle, and a citation has been issued to the truck driver.

Drug testing must take place within 32 hours of the accident and alcohol testing must take place within 2 hours.

Return-To-Duty Drug Testing

Return-to-Duty (RTD) drug testing is required after you’ve failed a drug or alcohol test or after you’ve refused to take a test.

Before the RTD test is administered, you have to complete the Return-to-Duty process. The exact process you have to follow will be determined by your Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) and can include drug or alcohol rehabilitation or substance abuse education.

Once you’ve completed the process, you’re required to pass a directly observed drug test before you’re allowed back behind the wheel. You must also comply with the follow-up drug testing schedule drawn up by your SAP.

You will be responsible for costs associated with the RTD process unless your employment contract specifies that your employer will cover the costs.

Follow Up Drug Testing

Upon completion of the Return To Duty process, truck drivers must pass a minimum of 6 directly observed drug tests during the first 12 months back at work.

The SAP may order more frequent testing and they may extend the testing period for an additional 4 years, making the potential testing period as long as 5 years.

Again, it’s likely that you would be responsible for the costs.

Read Also: List of Trucking Companies That Hire Convicted Felons.

What Drugs Do Truck Drivers Get Tested For?

What Drugs Do Truck Drivers Get Tested For?

Trucking companies have to follow Department of Transportation regulations as a minimum standard. And all trucking companies will test for the following substances:

  • Opiates – opium, codeine, and their derivatives
  • Opioids – oxycodone, oxymorphone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone
  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamine and methamphetamine
  • Phencyclidine(PCP)

Employers are allowed to test for other drugs beyond those mandated by law. Drug tests of this nature are non-DOT drug tests and an employer must have a clear drug testing policy detailing any extra drug testing requirements.

Truck drivers are also tested for alcohol use and any alcohol test result which shows a blood alcohol concentration at or above 0.02 is a failed test.

You should know that marijuana is always tested for even though it’s legal in some states. Marijuana is still an illegal drug at the federal level and the Department of Transportation is a federal authority.

How Do Truck Drivers Get Drug Tested?

The only DOT-approved drug testing method currently in use is urinalysis. For a urinalysis, you give a urine sample by urinating into a sample cup. The sample is then analyzed at a DOT-approved laboratory.

When a urinalysis is initially required the urine collection is unobserved.

However, if the testing laboratory finds that a urine sample is invalid (adulteration, dilution, fake urine, etc.) then you’re required to give a second sample under direct observation.

Someone will watch you pee, and you will be required to lift or lower clothing that could conceal a urine substitute or prosthetic urination device.

Early in 2022, the DOT published a proposal to add oral fluid testing (saliva testing) as an approved testing method that can be used instead of urine testing, but that proposal hasn’t been introduced yet.

For alcohol testing, you will be given a breathalyzer test or asked to provide a saliva sample.

How Long Are Drugs Detected On A DOT Urine Test?

  • Opiates and opioids – up to 4 days
  • Cocaine – up to 4 days
  • Amphetamines and methamphetamine – up to 4 days
  • Marijuana – up to 30 days (maybe longer with heavy use)
  • Phencyclidine (PCP) – up to 14 days

Are Trucking Companies Doing Hair Follicle Testing?

Some trucking companies use hair follicle testing in addition to the mandated DOT urinalysis testing.

If you are asked to take a hair follicle drug test, any drugs you’ve taken over the last 90 days can be detected.

What Happens If You Fail A Drug Test For A Trucking Company?

What Happens If You Fail A Drug Test For A Trucking Company?

If you fail a pre-employment drug or alcohol test, you won’t be hired and your positive result will be sent to the FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse.

If you fail drug or alcohol testing once you’re employed, you will not be allowed to drive a commercial motor vehicle, you may lose your job, and your positive test result will be reported to the FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse.

The FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse is a database that keeps records of drug and alcohol violations in the transportation industry.

Any driver with a positive result recorded at the clearinghouse is not permitted to drive any commercial motor vehicle which requires the driver to hold a CDL unless they’ve completed the RTD process and passed the RTD drug and/or alcohol test.

Quick Recap

If you regularly take illegal drugs, you’ll need to adjust your behavior if you want to drive a truck for a living. If you don’t, there’s a strong chance you’ll fail a drug test sooner or later.

As well as pre-employment drug testing, which you can prepare for, you face the possibility of being picked for an unannounced random drug test 4 times each year.

You’ll also be subject to reasonable suspicion drug testing and post-accident drug testing.

If you fail a drug test, the positive result is recorded in a central database and you can’t legally drive a commercial motor vehicle until you’ve completed the Return-to-Duty process and passed a directly observed drug test.

See Also: Do Bank Tellers Get Drug Tested?