Last updated: February 24, 2020
As a CDL-licensed operator driving on public roads (or inter-/intrastate roadways), you’re subject to legally mandated Department of Transportation (DOT) drug testing. But what, exactly, does that mean to you, personally? When can you expect to be tested, what drugs will the test detect, and how can you prepare?
The rationale behind DOT drug testing is to promote public safety. Because you, as a trucker, are in a safety-sensitive position, the DOT requires testing at specific times:
- after an accident
- when there is well-documented reasonable suspicion of substance abuse
- on return to work
- on a follow-up basis
Laboratory testing via urinalysis is the method used. Tests have to be conducted by federally approved vendors,before and apart from any other drug screening your employer may decide to do.
What drugs will you be tested for?
The DOT drug panel detects the presence of five classes of drugs:
- marijuana (including synthetic marijuana)
- opiates, as well as opium and codeine derivatives, including pain killers
- amphetamines and methamphetamines
Alcohol testing using a DOT-approved breathalyzer is also required, in order to detect alcohol concentrations of 0.02 or more.
How can you prepare?
Drug tests can be nerve wracking, even if you’re not using banned substances. Fortunately, you can ease the stress by taking a few simple steps:
Know what to expect. Understanding the drug-testing process can remove some of the stress. The steps go like this:
- You report to the collection site and leave your purse, briefcase, pocket paraphernalia, and jacket in a secure location.
- The technician gives you a cup, you go into the restroom and catch a urine sample midstream. (Under certain circumstances, the technician may go with you to observe.)
- You cap the cup and hand it to the technician, who sends the sample and a chain-of-evidence form to the lab.
- The lab tests the sample, and positive results are reviewed by a Medical Review Officer who’ll contact you to see if you have any health problems that may have affected the result.
- The results are transmitted to your employer.
Stay current with your doctor. Since some health problems can affect the outcome of a DOT drug test, it pays to know exactly what’s going on in that area. Regular visits to your doctor will arm you with facts you may need if your drug test comes up positive.
Drink plenty of water. This is a always good idea, and not just because it lowers your blood pressure. Dehydration can cause sleepiness, headaches, and dizziness, and by the time you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated! Plus, since DOT drug testing is conducted via urinalysis, staying hydrated will make the process that much easier for you.
Get your zzzzs. You’re far less likely to be involved in an accident—and thus, far less likely to be subject to post-accident DOT drug/alcohol screening—if you get the seven to eight hours of sleep adults need. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says sleeping less than that doubles your accident risk.
Clear your mind. Meditation is a fabulous stress reducer—as little as ten minutes per day can make a huge difference. Find a quiet place; take slow, deep breaths, and focus on any areas that feel tense. Imagine the tension seeping out as you exhale. If you train yourself to be calm, drug testing will cause far less upset.