What Happens If You Fail a DOT Drug Test?

What Happens If You Fail a DOT Drug Test

We get this question from both employers and drivers: What happens if you fail a DOT drug test? What if it happens to your best driver? Failure of, or refusal to take a DOT drug test means immediate removal from all safety sensitive duties. In order to continue driving, the employee must go through the Substance Abuse Program, including the following steps:

  1. A certified therapist meets with the driver and prescribes a drug or alcohol treatment program, which includes counselling. The prescribed plan will depend on the perceived severity of the problem. 
  2. The driver will have to successfully complete the ordered therapy and meet with the counselor to review treatment. 
  3. The driver will take a DOT-mandated Return to Duty test, which includes observed urine and breath alcohol test.
  4. The driver will also be subject to a minimum of six random, observed drug and breath alcohol follow up tests, as mandated by DOT. The therapist may prescribe additional testing for as long as five years, fully at the discretion of the therapist.

Once the driver receives a negative result for their Return to Duty they may resume safety sensitive duties but must continue to do all their follow up testing as well as be subject to any random selections, post accident or reasonable suspicion testing. 

The DOT test panel will test for the following, at a minimum, as dictated by DOT:

  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)
  • Amphetamines/Methamphetamines
  • Opiates (Codeine, Morphine, Heroin)
  • MDMA (Ecstasy)
  • Oxycodone (OxyContin®)
  • Oxymorphone (Percodan®)
  • Hydrocodone (Percocet®)
  • Hydromorphone (Dilaudid®)

Does a failed pre employment DOT drug test go on your record?

Employers are mandated by DOT to record any and all drug or alcohol test failures and refusal to test incidents. In fact, a new FMCSA clearinghouse database has made it easier for employers to have access to all of this information. That prevents drivers from attempting to hide failed drug tests. Failed drug tests, however, do not end up on a public record and will not be included in a background check.

Will I lose my CDL for failing a drug test?

A driver who fails a DOT drug or alcohol test will not lose their license. However, they will be immediately removed from duty and have to go through the Return to Duty protocol as mentioned above.

Can I refuse a drug test?

A driver’s refusal to take a DOT drug and alcohol test generally results in the same consequences as a failed test, the exception being the pre-employment test.  You can refuse the pre-employment test but the company cannot hire you for safety sensitive position like driving. There are certain exceptions that allow a driver to refuse a test. It’s vital that both the employer and the driver understand the circumstances and definitions around a refusal. More info can be found at the FMCSA’s website: Employee Handbook.


Whether it’s your driving career or that of your best driver, it’s important to understand what happens when a driver fails a DOT drug test. It’s not the end of the road, but it starts a Return to Duty process that must be successfully completed in order for the driver to get back to work. TrueTest Labs can take care of all our DOT testing and test management needs. Contact our office today at 847 258 3966 or enroll in our consortium.