What Happens If A Truck Driver Fails a DOT Drug Test?

October 19, 2021

Drugs and Alcohol can demolish someone's life, and when it belongs to the safety of the traveling public and workers it is vital to go through drug test procedures regulated by the government-specifically, Department of Transportation (DOT). Passing a DOT drug test means that you can go ahead with your driving career, but what are some of the ways you can fail?

A truck driver can fail a random DOT drug test for many reasons, such as time away from work, a medical condition, and even occasional marijuana use.

But what happens when a truck driver fails a random DOT drug test?

The answer to this question can be found in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's (FMCSA) policy on drug and alcohol testing of commercial drivers. A truck driver without a DOT drug test or drug test refusal of any kind is prohibited from operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) on public highways.

The drivers who fail a random DOT drug test will not be able to drive for 1 year and will have their CDL suspended for 3 years.  Drivers need to plan and identify how they will get their job done if they are required to take a DOT drug test.

If a truck driver gets a positive drug test result it should not barricade his career journey. You may be fearful that you will lose your job or other may leave you but, luckily by completing, RTD (Return to duty) process through DOT SAP (Substance Abuse Professional) truck driver can be eligible to return to safety-sensitive work.

Read to learn the facts and figures about the DOT drug test.

In This Article You will Learn:

Does a Failed DOT Drug Test Record in Your File?

The Department of Transportation (DOT) has many safety regulations and requirements for the truck driver. One of these requirements is to complete a random drug test before driving on the nation's highways. Truck drivers who fail a DOT drug test can face significant consequences, including the loss of their commercial driver license (CDL) and/or their job. This paper will explore what would happen if a truck driver failed a DOT drug test, how it would affect the driver, and whether or not this is fair to them.

The DOT has established serious consequences for failing one of these random drug tests - losing your license and your job.

According to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Safety, sensitive employees are required to get DOT drug test in the following situations:


An employer must have a negative drug test result before permitting a Commercial Driver License (CDL)

Post-Accident Drug Testing:

Post-accident DOT drug testing is performed after an employee is involved in an accident. A drug test must turn out after 32 hours of coincidence.

Random Testing:

Commercial drivers shall implement a random testing programmer in the selection pool as a member of the cooperative chamber.

Reasonable Suspicion:

Drivers who are suspected to be under the influence of drugs can be immediately tested upon certain behavioral changes like speech, appearance, smell, etc.

Return to Duty (RTD):

It is required to drivers who tested drugs positive or violated the DOT drugs rules, one can only resuming his driver duties that have completed the process with a DOT (Department of Transport) qualified SAP (Substance Abuse Professionals). The employees are detected under direct observation.

The Follow-up Testing:

It is required after Return to Duty process. This test is prescribed and managed by the qualified SAP for 6 directly observed tests in 12 months but can be extended up to 4 years.

Future Access to DOT Drug test records:

Failing a DOT Drug test can be disastrous, but once if you completed the RTD process under the direction of SAP specialists, you may resume your employment again.

A failed DOT Drug entered into the FMCSA Drugs and Alcohol clearinghouse followed by RTD until you completed the DOT SAP process and get negative results, then the employee undergoes unannounced follow-up testing at least 6 times during the first 12 months after successful RTD, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Association failing a DOT Drug and alcohol tests will remain in your record for up to 5 years.

An employer cannot access your DOT Drug test result without your authorization. However, hold back to provide your consent put-a stop to performing safety-related duties.

What Drugs do the DOT Test For?

There is only one and single five-panel DOT Drug test. The process starts with a collection of Urine specimens of suspected individuals and sends it to a laboratory for analysis.

The following drugs will be tested:

● Marijuana

● Cocaine

● Opioids (Codeine, Morphine, Heroin, Hydrocodone, Hydromorphone, Oxymorphone, Hydrocodone, and Oxycodone)

● Phencyclidine

● Amphetamines (Methamphetamines, and MDMA)

What Happens to Your Driving Career After A Failed Drug Test?

Most truck drivers are required to undergo drug testing to operate a commercial vehicle. It is vital to ensure that the driver is not hindered by drugs while driving.

This DOT drug test is random, meaning that it can take place at anytime, anywhere. So, what will happen if the driver fails this test?

For many employees, it is a very stressful time when they have a DOT drug or alcohol positive result.

Now, what will the employer do?

Will the employee be fired?

How long he cannot get back his DOT safety-sensitive designation?

Can a tested positive employee be rehired again?

The sweet and short answer to all the above concerns is to follow the DOT rules and regulations and handle the situation artfully.

A failed DOT drug result does not have to blemish the end of your career. By completing the entire process from screening to RTD under the supervision of qualified SAP, one can be permitted again to safety-sensitive work.

If the driver is still employed by the company that employed them before they failed the test then they can reapply to drive again after one year. However, if they are fired then the company has up to three years to rehire them.

The second thing that might happen is the driver will be suspended from driving for 7 days. But after the suspension period, they are still allowed to work as a truck driver, so long as they successfully pass an annual DOT drug test.

It is important to keep in mind that only a qualified DOT SAP can provide the required assessment, advocacy, and direction to successful acceptance to become eligible for return to duty employees.

The RTD process is followed by personalized medicines and proper treatment until he receives a negative result. Upon completion, one will undergo unannounced follow-up evaluations.

Will you lose your job if you fail the DOT Drug test?

According to DOT Regulations, if one fails in the drug test the employer is required to straight away remove the employee to perform any DOT safety-sensitive job.

A truck driver who fails the DOT drug test is placed in non-duty status until the test is completed. Non-duty status means that the truck driver's job is no longer active.

If a truck driver fails a random DOT drug test, they are placed in non-duty status until the test is completed. The non-duty status means that their job is no longer active during this period. This may mean that they are not able to make money or find another job which could be harder for them to find with non-driving skills.

The DOT Drug Test includes 7 different questions about alcohol consumption, illicit drugs, and prescription drugs. If an individual answers 3 of these questions incorrectly, they are automatically punished with a suspension of their commercial driving privileges for 1 year.

However, employment actions such as hiring, firing, leave, or absence completely depends upon employer DOT regulations may prohibit you from performing safety-sensitive functions.

If You Failed Your DOT Drug Test, How Long Will Your CDL Be Suspended?

Here, a question comes to mind that if one fails a DOT Drug test will he ever drive again? The simplest answer is yes because a failed drug test remains only for 3 years on a driver's record.

You have to undergo RTD processes that might longer but once if you get the negative result after several fellow up processes, you may acquire your CDL again.

Can you retake a DOT Drug test after failing?

YES, one can retake the test but not as it was before, for instance, the individual will not deposit the sample however the same sample will be screened again with more care and diligence. One can request for the second test after 72 hours of receiving a positive test result.

Is there a Database for failed drug tests?

The Federal Motor Carrier Administration (FMCA) established the Commercial Driving License (CDL) Drugs and Alcohol clearinghouse. The final clearinghouse rule establishes the database of failed DOT Drug tests and is published by the FMCA in the Federal registrar.

According to Feb  21 press release, more than 650,000 individuals who have registered themselves have joined the online database of the names of Commercial Vehicle Drivers (CMV0) who have failed the DOT drug test to ensure road safety.

Clearinghouse, MROs, and employers are needed to report facts and figures about failed or positive Drug test drivers. It is the responsibility of SAP to provide a database about Return-to-Duty (RTD) drivers through the Drug and Alcohol rehabilitation process.

What Are the Threshold Concentrations for Drug Testing?

As per the laboratory method, you must have to conclude a test result by comparing test results and cut-off level, as displayed below:

DOT 5 Panel Drug Test Threshold Concentrations

Initial Test Analyte

Initial Test Threshold Concentration

Confirmatory Test Analyte

Confirmatory Test Threshold Concentration

Marijuana metabolites

50 ng/ml3


15 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.


25 ng/ml


25 ng/ml.


10 ng/ml


10 ng/ml.


500 ng/ml


250 ng/ml.
250 ng/ml.

● On an initial drug test, results below the threshold concentration or cut-off level will be reported as negative.

● If the result is above the cut-off level the individual must undergo a confirmation test.

● If the results are below the threshold level the confirmation test will reported as negative.

● If the result is above the cut-off level, the result will be considered as confirmed positive.

According to Transportation Employee Testing Act (1991), DOT designated employees must undergo DOT Drugs and Alcohol testing. It was a very vital requirement to establish an alcohol and drugs free transportation industry as the employees are safety-sensitive who hold a responsibility that can affect both their safety as well as the public

Failing a DOT Drug test may lead to losing your job with more consequences, first of all, you will be removed from your safety-sensitive DOT designation then, you will have to proceed with a one-to-one meeting with a Substance Abuse Specialist, and complete your treatment journey, after return to duty, you will have to face random follow-up evaluations for about 12 months and there will be failed drug-test record in the clearinghouse for up-to 5 years.

Another step has taken in January 2020 that positive DOT drug results will be reported to a national database (FMCSA clearinghouse) that will include refusals to tests. Employers can check this database before hiring someone, and make sure that the employee has not had any violation against Drug and alcohol regulations. The qualified SAP individuals also submit reports of successful Return to Duty employees.

Completing treatment and returning to everyday life seems like the most difficult task you have ever done but healthy and successful life is your right. Never lose hope if you failed the DOT Drug test, choose the path towards recovery, and taste every moment of life.

About the author

I’m Luis Uribe, author of this website. I am the owner and head publisher for Trucker Daily and a freight brokerage Total Connection Logistics. I have been in and around the trucking industry for over 15 years. It is my mission with Trucker daily to equip truck drivers, with the latest in industry updates, news, and helpful tips to help further your trucking career and life. Whether you are a truck driving veteran, or beginner, you will find information on this site to save you a lot of time in your driving journey.

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