What happens if a Truck Driver Fails a Random Drug Test

April 30, 2021

A fully-loaded tractor-trailer weighs about 40 tons, can be as high as 13 feet, and as long as 50! If one is ever involved in a high-speed accident, its weight and size mean the crash could be devastating. Avoiding such accidents is one of the reasons why drug tests are conducted. But what happens if a truck driver fails a random drug test?

Truck drivers undergo random drug tests from the Department of Transportation, or DOT, on a regular basis.

Failing a DOT drug test can have serious repercussions for truck drivers. Consequences may include suspension, termination, and loss of commercial driving privileges. It is crucial for drivers to prioritize their well-being, adhere to DOT regulations, and seek appropriate support if faced with a failed drug test.

This article will give you detailed information on DOT drug testing. It will also discuss exactly what happens after a driver fails a random drug test.

What Happens When a Truck Driver Fails a Drug Test?

Since there can be such serious consequences, truck drivers must be mentally alert at all times. Trucking companies also take road safety very seriously. This means drivers must never be under the influence of any illegal drugs.

There’s a lot that happens if a truck driver fails their drug test. Here is the sequence of events.

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  • The driver must immediately stop any of what the DOT calls safety-sensitive duties. This means the driver will not be permitted to complete any tasks that could put lives at risk if not done well. This includes driving, repairing, and servicing any kind of truck.

  • Their employer will direct the driver to a substance abuse professional, or SAP. They must then enroll in a Substance Abuse Program. This is meant to be a rehabilitative process. It aims to get the driver back to where they can handle safety-sensitive functions again. The driver will have to cover the costs of this program.

  • The structure of the SAP program depends on how bad the therapist believes the driver’s substance abuse issues are. The driver will also receive counseling as part of the program.

  • When the driver has completed the SAP program, they will meet again with the therapist. The therapist will review whether to extend the program.

  • If the program has been satisfactory, the driver can return to work. However, before they can start any tasks, they must complete a Return-to-Duty drug test. Supervisors will observe as the urine sample is collected. They will also do a breath alcohol test.

  • If they pass this test, they can then resume work fully. However, they will have to do at least six random follow-up tests. These can all come within a year or up to five years.

It is important to know that failing a drug test does not result in the loss of a driver’s license. They will still be able to keep their CDL. However, this failed test will stay on their record. It may be difficult for the driver to seek a change in employment in the future. It goes without saying that it is best for truck drivers to avoid this situation entirely.

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What to Know About the DOT Drug Test?

The Department of Transportation drug test is essential for public safety. It involves having a urine sample taken as well as breathalyzer.

The test is not a drug test limited to just truck drivers. Anyone who operates or works with large commercial vehicles will undergo the DOT drug test. This includes bus drivers, pilots, ship captains, and even subway operators. Truck drivers are upholding safety standards by ensuring that their drivers are regularly tested.

If you start a trucking business, your drivers will need to be tested as well. It is illegal not to take part in this drug-testing program. Ensuring your drivers are not under the influence of drugs allows you to uphold safety standards. You will need to ensure that the drivers under you get tested when needed.

When do truck drivers get drug tested?

There are several different times when drivers will need to to undergo this  drug test. These include the following:

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  • One is before a truck driver begins working for a company. This pre-employment test must come back negative before the driver can operate a truck.

  • The test is also required following an accident, depending on the exact circumstances. If the driver does not receive a traffic citation, they do not need to get tested. Except in the case of a fatality, the driver, regardless of a citation, must complete a drug test.

  • There are also random tests done at points throughout the year. This is necessary. This prevents drivers from using illegal drugs even once, and stopping drug use, since they know they could be tested at any time. as they won’t know when the test is coming.

  • If the employer has reason to suspect drug use from one of their truck drivers, they can have them tested immediately. Those who supervise the drivers must be able to identify signs of drug use.

  • Truck drivers who tested positive must get tested again before resuming work. This will only happen after the SAP program is completed, for which the time frame is determined on a personal basis. In this case, the test is directly observed. This prevents the possibility of the urine sample getting switched with someone else's.

  • Truck drivers who test positive will also be required to undergo frequent follow-up tests. For the truck drivers described above, they will need to do follow-up testing. These drivers will get tested at intervals for at least a year but up to 5 years.

    In some cases, drivers may refuse to take the test. If this happens, the outcome is the same as failing it. In these cases, there are a series of steps that they will have to follow. These can ultimately result in the driver being able to return to work.

What drugs are tested for in a DOT drug test?

The DOT drug test screens for a wide number of drugs. These include some of the most common drugs that people use. Some of these drugs are:

  • Cannabis
  • Alcohol
  • Cocaine
  • Heroin, morphine, codeine, and other opioids
  • Amphetamines like methamphetamine, MDMA
  • Phencyclidine

What to Do in Case of False Positives

If a driver is adamant they haven’t used any drugs despite a positive test, they have options. Within 72 hours of receiving a positive test, they can request a retest. This does not mean they get to submit a new urine sample. Instead, the old sample, which is never entirely used, will be tested again. However, this time, it will be tested by a different lab.

If this next test still comes out positive, the driver should be asked if they use any medications. These may cause a false positive. If they have proof that medications were prescribed, then they can be excused for the positive result.

Drug tests can come at any time for truck drivers. It is important to stay clean and off drugs when working in these jobs. Not only can these substances affect the driver’s health, but they put other lives at risk. However, even after a positive test, there is still a chance to get back to work. It won’t be as easy though. A driver must complete an SAP program which does not have a definite duration, and then they must complete another test, before they can be let back to work.

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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