What Does a Failed DOT Drug Test Mean?

Failed Dot Drug Test

The Department of Transportation (DOT) holds commercial drivers to a certain standard, providing requirements for who can and cannot work in the industry. One of these requirements is the DOT drug test. With this test, the DOT prevents many accidents and safety hazards resulting from substance abuse.

For most people, the drug test isn’t a problem. But what do failed DOT drug tests mean? There’s a lot riding on these test results, so here’s what you need to know if yours come back positive.

What Is a DOT Drug Test?

In 1991, the Department of Transportation laid the groundwork for federal alcohol and drug testing to ensure roadway safety with the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act. Today, DOT drug and alcohol testing regulations require everyone with a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) to get regularly tested in order to stay dot compliant. DOT drug tests look for evidence of the following substances:

  • Marijuana
  • Opiates
  • Cocaine
  • Methamphetamines and Amphetamines
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)

These tests can be conducted by a trusted dot compliance drug alcohol testing facility such as New Era Drug Testing.

How Can You Fail DOT Drug Tests?

There’s one guaranteed way to follow DOT guidelines and pass the drug test—don’t do drugs. However, saying no to drugs isn’t always easy or simple. Many people have a history of addiction, suffer a substance use disorder, or find themselves in a situation where they feel unable to refuse.

According to dot rules 49 CFR Part 40 Section 40.191. You can actually fail the federally regulated drug test in a couple of ways:

  1. Testing positive: If your test sample shows evidence of restricted drug use, you will fail the test. 
  2. Refusing the test: You can also fail the test by refusing to take it. Although refusing pre-employment or random tests do not always entail the same consequences as testing positive, they still technically count as failures.

What Happens If You Fail the Drug and Alcohol Test?

Failed DOT drug tests have serious implications for your current and future employment. Avoiding alcohol and drug consumption prior to driving is critical to preventing collisions, obeying the law, and traveling safely in general. It’s especially critical for CDL drivers with commercial motor vehicles like tractor-trailers and passenger buses. 

Failing the DOT drug and alcohol test is no joke. You must agree to take the test and have negative results to avoid major consequences.

Suspension From Safety-specific Tasks

One of the most significant fallouts of not meeting DOT regulations involves your ability to perform safety-specific tasks. Safety-sensitive employees perform regular duties that might harm themselves or others, such as operating a train or heavy vehicle. Failed DOT drug testing means automatic removal from these functions.

That said, failing the test does not mean losing your CDL license. However, your employer will suspend you from many of your duties depending on the company policy. Employers may also fire employees for failing the test.

Completion of the Return to Duty Process

Drug and alcohol testing policies may differ from company to company. But every CDL driver who tests positive must complete the Return to Duty Process before they can resume a safety-sensitive position. This mandatory process includes the following steps:

  • Visiting a Substance Abuse Professional (SAP), who evaluates employees
  • Determining the appropriate rehab program (education or treatment), according to the SAP
  • Completing the SAP-recommended rehabilitation program and follow-up evaluation
  • Taking follow-up drug tests and test negative

You only have to complete the Return to Duty Process if you fail the DOT drug test while employed. The process isn’t necessary if you fail a pre-employment test by refusing it. A prospective employer may simply refuse to hire you or deny you safety-sensitive duties.

A DOT Violation on Your Record

Failed DOT drug tests and a high alcohol test failure rate have short-term consequences as well as long-term ones. For example, getting positive results for hair follicle testing will go on your record in the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA) Clearinghouse database. This drug and alcohol program regulation database ensures they only have the best workers on the road.

It is possible to remove a failed test from your FMCSA Clearinghouse record. You must take at least six follow-up tests over the 12 months following your positive test. You may also need to wait five years and consistently have follow-up testing with negative results before the blemish gets removed from your record.

DOT Drug Test FAQs

Do you have further questions about failing the DOT drug test? Below, we answer some common questions truck drivers ask.

Will a failed drug test appear in a background check?

The short answer is no—a violated DOT drug or alcohol test will not show up in an employee background check. It won’t be part of your criminal record. However, current or future employers may see it if their background check includes looking through the FMCSA Clearinghouse database.

What if I fail the drug test twice?

Failing two DOT drug or alcohol tests typically means you failed random testing or a reasonable suspicion test and a follow-up test. If you fail follow-up testing, you must start the Return to Duty Process all over again. You may only resume safety-specific duties once you successfully complete the process and get negative results for follow-up testing.

Who reports drug test results?

DOT drug tests get reported to the trucking company and FMCSA Clearinghouse by Medical Review Officers (MROs). MROs check all the test results and confirm whether they are negative or positive. Before certifying positive results, a Medical Review Officer will speak with the truck driver to ensure they have no valid reason for failing the test (for example, taking prescription medication with a valid prescription).

New Era Drug Testing: Affordable DOT Drug Testing and Clearinghouse

Dot Drug Testing

Failed DOT drug tests are no small matter. They can have immediate implications (like not getting hired, getting fired, or getting suspended from safety-sensitive functions) and long-term consequences, such as needing to take multiple follow-up tests and having a dot violation on your Clearinghouse record. Meeting federal regulations and following corporate alcohol rules is essential to running a safe, efficient business.

Are you looking for affordable drug testing that complies with DOT regulations? At New Era Drug Testing, we have over 10,000 testing sites and a full suite of services to ensure your workplace meets DOT alcohol regulations and stays free from substance abuse. To learn more about our dot programs or services, contact a support team or call (800) 801-0966 to get started today.