When Truckers Run Into Problems With Drug Testing!

Understanding the various reasons for asking “Do truckers get drug tested?” at times can become daunting.  Though, to answer this question:

Truck Drivers do get drug tested.  They are subject to being tested for alcohol and other things as well.  Here are the substances that Truck Drivers are tested for regularly:

    • Marijuana metabolites, THC
    • Phencyclidine “PCP”
    • Amphetamines (such as Methamphetamine, MDMA)
    • Opioids (such as Codeine, heroin, morphine, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxycodone, oxymorphone)
    • Cocaine metabolites
    • Alcohol
    • The motor carrier (trucking company) must test for these per FMCSA rules and regulations. In addition to this, the FMCSA under section 382.601 allows the motor carrier to test for additional illegal, controlled and prescribed substances at the discretion of the motor carrier.

As we can see, truckers are drug and alcohol tested for more things than illegal drugs.  This article will answer everything you could ever want to know about truck drivers getting tested for drugs.  Even some bizarre mind-blowing reasons.  To find out all of these mind-blowing reasons, read below to know everything!


How Are Truckers Tested For Drugs?

For the most part and from my own experience, these tests are usually conducted from a random perspective of being selected as a truck driver.  Usually, it is through a urinalysis and providing a sample into a cup.

Be sure to wash your hands prior to supplying your specimen for testing and afterwards.  Keep note that you are not allowed to take any items with you.  These items include:

  • Wallet
  • Purse
  • Cell Phone
  • Watch
  • Anything you may have in your pockets.
  • Anything you may have hidden on your person.
  • Keys
  • Loose change.
  • Pocket knife.
  • Nail file.
  • Anything you may have hidden in your person that is abnormal.

Yeah, you read that last one correctly.  If you are caught attempting to cheat the screening test, the little I do know is that you can say bye bye to trucking forever and a few handfuls of other occupations as well.

After you have filled your testing cup with the required level of the sample, make sure you can maintain vision of it from the moment you place it where was requested to.  Especially during the moment, you wash your hands.

There are times I have had to resupply a sample because the medical facility improperly handled my testing sample.  Anything that may enter the sample that is foreign to you deems it to be discarded of properly.

Then resupplied into a new sample cup in order to provide the best possible results.  Once your sample is placed into smaller testing tubes.  These tubes are sealed.

The seal will require your signature and/or initials to be valid.  This must be completely done with you present, and your signing initialing is done at the time of sealing.  If this is not accomplished, your testing samples are invalid.

If your testing samples are sealed without you present, and you told to not worry about it or where they went.  Kindly let the manager in charge know so that you can have this done correctly.  If you don’t say anything, you’re taking the risk of having your seals on the wrong samples and you do not know who provided the sample your seals are on.

Each set of seals are like a sticker that overlap the containers at the opening lid.  Each set of seals are also numbered to match your paperwork.  Having the wrong seals on the wrong samples could cost you a fortune later.

Once your testing tubes are sealed and validated, they are placed into a bag that is also sealed.  That also follows the above protocol.  Then this bag is mailed off to the testing site.

At some medical facilities, they can do a pre-screen for drugs and alcohol on site.  Which will provide you with a result at that moment rather than later.

If a truck driver is involved in a fatal accident, you will be tested for drugs and alcohol on site.  At the scene of the accident.  If the truck driver is unable to provide a sample due to injuries from the accident.  The trucker will be tested once arrives at the hospital.

In some of these types of cases, blood samples are used if the urinalysis is not a possibility.  Commonly these tests are done either inside of an ambulance, or in some manner, a way of privacy is created so that the drug and alcohol tests can be completed.

While at a scene of an accident, a breathalyzer is also commonly used as well to test for alcohol content.  This tool is also used during a random examination.

When you are a truck driver, the trucking company you work for must place you into a group for random testing purposes.  This group is called a Drug and Alcohol Consortium.  Which is required by the FMCSA.

Within this group, truckers are selected randomly for either Alcohol Screening, or for a Drug Screening.  Sometimes, truck drivers are randomly selected for both a drug screen and an alcohol screen during the same session.

During these sessions, hair follicles is another form in which this testing can be based off.  Not as often during a random exam, being more prominent during the hiring stages.  This testing type has occurred at some of the previously mentioned reasons.

Just keep in mind, there may come a day where testing by hair follicles becomes the norm for every aspect of testing for substances.


What Is A DOT Drug Test?

It is a drug test or screening, that is regulated by the Department of Transportation.  These tests can occur for multiple different scenarios and reasons.

The most common is the random for pre-hiring a new truck driver.  Most times when someone is looking for a new job or career within the trucking industry.  That new hire will be subject to a pre-hire drug and alcohol screening.

The next most common reason is to be randomly selected.  It’s similar to a lottery, yet you only win the ability to be screened for drugs or alcohol.

Following is a term “reasonable suspicion”.  Which allows DOT officer’s on the scene of a traffic violation or accident with minor injuries or non-disabling damage to vehicles, along with motor carrier representatives that are properly trained to request you attend a drug or alcohol screening.  For the only reasons other than they believe you have shown some type of evidence of being under the influence of a substance.

Next is post-accident testing.  This occurs when a fatality has occurred at an accident you were involved in.  This also occurs if there are any disabled vehicles from the accident.  And lastly, this can occur if anyone from the scene of the accident receives any type of medical treatment due to the accident.

Here are the last two.  They are very similar.  They are “follow-up” and “return-to-duty” drug and alcohol screens.  Normally these are based off a length of time you’ve been away from the truck driving work environment.

Either because of a vacation or medical leave.  Usually its something of this sort that brings the reasoning for these purposes of testing to become present.


What Must The Drug Test Results Be Less Than?

For each of the different substances, is a different amount not to exceed.  There is no, one unit fits all type of method.  Below is the drug panel with the testing panel cutoffs.


  • Marijuana metabolites, 50 ng/ml



  • Phencyclidine 25 ng/ml



  • Amphetamines 500 ng/ml
  • Methamphetamine 500 ng/ml
  • MDMA 500 ng/ml
  • MDA 500 ng/ml




  • Codeine 2000 ng/ml
  • Heroin 10ng/ml
  • morphine
  • hydrocodone 300 ng/ml
  • hydromorphone 300 ng/ml
  • oxycodone 100 ng/ml
  • oxymorphone 100 ng/ml



  • Cocaine metabolites 150 ng/ml
  • Benzoylecgonine 150 ng/ml



  • A BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) of 0.04% or more could result in testing positive.


When Are Truck Drivers Tested For Drugs?

In the above, this has slightly been talked about a little.  So, in some respects, this will be recapped.  Truck drivers may be tested for drugs and alcohol when:

  • The truck driver is obtaining a new medical exam certification or renewing a medical certificate due to the current medical card is expiring.
  • Prior to becoming a newly hired truck driver at a trucking company.
  • At the scene of an accident, depending upon the severity of the accident and if any fatalities, medical treatment and/or disabled vehicles.
  • If the trucker presents any evidence of being under the influence of any substances. Which may cause the police to have reasonable suspicion.
  • When a drug and alcohol consortium randomly choose a truck driver by name or social security number.
  • After returning to work from a vacation, or from an extended leave of absence from work.  This is considered a follow-up or a return-to-duty screening.
  • At any moment the trucking company chooses to test the truck driver if the truck driver has a history of failing a drug and or alcohol screening.

These above reasons are so numerous for the simple fact that the trucking industry wants to maintain a level of safety.  Safety for other truck drivers, safety for the motor carrier equipment and the safety for the general public.

By having all these possibilities theses are the results of what it takes to regulate this section of the trucking industry.


When Is The First Time A Truck Driver Will Be Tested For Drugs and Alcohol?

The very first time every truck driver will be tested for drugs will be at the medical facility they report to.  To have their medical examination certification take place.

The medical examination goes over your physical ability to operate and control a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) in a safe manner.  Also, this examination goes over your ability to pass a drug and alcohol testing screen.

This is required by the Department of Transportation (DOT) rule 49 CFR Part 40.25 and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) section 391.23(c).  As a truck driver, you are required to pass both the physical medical examination and the drug and alcohol screening.

This is done prior to receiving a commercial driver permit.  Prior to receiving your commercial driver license (CDL).

If the substance is illegal at the federal level.  Regardless of the state that you live in.  If it shows as a positive on your screening, you will fail your test.  Not only will you fail, but your failure could be reported to various agencies.

These agencies could include but are not limited to;

  • Any motor carrier you attempt to seek employment at in the future for the next few years by the motor carrier the failed result occurred under.
    • The motor carrier that administered the drug or alcohol screening is required by law to remove the trucker from any safety-sensitive abilities immediately.
  • Drive A Check Report (DAC Report) This report is like having a report card in grade school. Except instead of grades, you receive derogatory remarks.  Instead of it lasting for a semester, it maintains a decade of information at a time .
    • This report contains information about each truck driver on:
      • Types of loads hauled
      • Driver status and experience
      • Reasons for leaving employment(s)
      • Number of accidents/incidents with details about each individual accident
      • Equipment operated and if abandoned
      • Reasons for being terminated from employment(s)
      • Rehire eligibility
      • Drug and alcohol histories
      • Pre-employment drug and alcohol test results
      • Truck driving school performance
        • Keep in mind, these records are maintained for up to 10 years.

A failed drug or alcohol testing result as a truck driver could remove your ability to acquire a commercial driver permit or commercial driver’s license (CDL) soon.  As a side note, if you “refuse” to take the drug and or alcohol screening test.  Your refusal is considered a failure.

If you’re at the medical facility and are unable to provide a specimen for testing before the medical facility closes.  This can also be considered a failure.

If you leave the medical facility for any reason, during the waiting of you providing a specimen for testing.  The moment you exit the door, you failed.

If you fail this DOT and FMCSA substance and alcohol test.  You will be required by law to attend a Substance Abuse Professional (SAP).  Though, only if the reporting trucking company actually reports the occurrence.  If it truly is reported, then not only are you required to attend this SAP, but you are responsible to pay for all costs associated with and of the program.

You will be required to complete and pass this program.  After completion, you will be allowed to resubmit for a commercial driver permit or reacquire your CDL.

On the other foot of this entire section.  You may be able to acquire your CDL or commercial driver permit.  Though that doesn’t guarantee that anyone will hire you.  If you fail a drug or alcohol test, it will be on your record for 3 years if reported.

After 3 years of time.  It will not be reported as a DOT or FMCSA Drug Testing Violation by whoever reported it as being so.  From this point forward, all it can ever be is that you violated company policies and are not recommended for rehire.

To a motor carrier, you will be an extremely high risk to employ during this time with just 1 failed drug and or alcohol screening.  This causes a trucking company’s insurance rates to rise.

This may cause the trucking company to acquire negative points on their safety rating by employing you.  If you obtain a failed screening, trucking may not be your thing.  Or at least, not your thing for a bit of time.

Though if you do not seek to be or become a truck driver after failing a drug or alcohol test.  There’s no need to spend the extra money attending SAP.  Unless the new occupation you are seeking to enter, also drug and alcohol tests new hires.  For the other occupations, you will have to search to see, since this is about trucking, sorry.


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About Michael : Semi Truck Driver

I have been a semi truck driver for approximately 20 years. Throughout this time I have been taught a lot of different things from a lot of different people through the years. I've also learned a lot of things from my own mistakes. With all of this in mind, allow me to share with you what I have been lucky enough to learn.

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