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  • Writer's pictureFront Range Compliance

Drug Tests Failures in the DOT

Updated: Jan 16, 2023

Whether you are applying for your first job in the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) industry or returning to a safety sensitive function, you will be required to take a pre-employment drug test!

The DOT requires a pre-employment drug test for all safety-sensitive employees, to include bus drivers, CDL drivers, and many more. If you fail or refuse a pre-employment DOT drug test, your ability to get a safety-sensitive job will be delayed. The DOT also requires drivers to be in a randomized testing pool within their company after they have been hired on. Passing tests is critical to continue operating in safety-sensitive functions. Drug and alcohol tests are also required post accident. All test failures result in the same process if the driver wants to continue in the industry.

If you fail a test, you will have to complete the DOT Return to Duty (RTD) process with a qualified DOT Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) before applying for work.

We have received multiple questions about pre-employment/random drug test failures, and what that means for the driver. Below we will cover how long the failed test will stay on your record, what you will need to do in order to return to work and how the test is reported.

Failed Tests for CDL Drivers Are Reported to the FMCSA Clearinghouse

As of January 6, 2020, employers and third-party administrators (TPAs) are required to report refusals and failures of drug tests for CDL drivers to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse. This includes all failures or refusals of pre-employment, random, post-accident, and all other drug tests required by the FMCSA.

The Clearinghouse will only keep a record of tests done while working in or trying to obtain a job in the DOT industry. For example, if you failed a drug test for a job at a restaurant or hospital, that would not show on your Clearinghouse record. However, if you had failed a test while working as a school bus driver, that test's results would be reflected on your Clearinghouse record.

How Long Do Failed Drug Tests Stay on Record?

The positive drug test will remain in your Clearinghouse record until you successfully complete the RTD process. Your SAP will create a plan of DOT follow-up testing, this plan will be specifically geared to you and could include a year of testing or five years of testing. After that, the failed test record stays in your Clearinghouse record for five years. An employer may not access your DOT drug testing results through the Clearinghouse without your consent, however, refusing to provide consent will prevent you from performing safety-sensitive job duties and could even prevent you from being hired by the employer.

Can I Get a Job after a Failed Pre-Employment Drug Test?

The simple answer is, yes you can still get a job in the DOT industry but as stated above you will have to complete the RTD process. This includes an initial assessment and evaluation with a qualified DOT SAP, a personalized testing, treatment and education plan, a follow-up evaluation with final approval from the same SAP, followed by an observed RTD test ordered by your employer or potential employer. Successful completion of the process will allow you to go back to safety sensitive work, such as driving or operating heavy machinery.

To find a Substance Abuse Professional in your area, please visit, where you will be able to find a SAP in your area. From there they will come up with a personalized RTD plan for you. Again, this plan is specifically designed for you by your SAP and could be a year of testing or five years of testing.

Drug and Alcohol Policies

At Front Range Compliance Services, one of our specialities is building and managing drug and alcohol programs for our clients. We will build a policy for your company, set up a randomized testing program for your drivers and much more. For more information about what that includes, click here! For any specific questions, please reach out to Nicole at (970) 646-1050 or email her at or click the link below!

DOT Training

Make sure to check out our online DOT Training, DOT University! We currently are offering Reasonable Suspicion for Supervisors, Cargo Securement, Defensive Driving, and Pre/Post Trip Inspection. In the coming months we plan on releasing Designated Employer Representative, and Appendix A.

Until then, check out our other blogs or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to be the first to know when new classes are made available or for other updates like this! You can also opt-in to our newsletter for exclusive offers, regulation changes, and industry news!

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