Can I still be a DOT Driver if I fail a drug test?


A better question to ask, is am I still employable if I fail a drug test? The short answer is not right away. It used to be when a CDL driver who failed a drug or alcohol test would simply move on to a new employer who didn’t know the DOT rules or check the driver’s background and hope they passed their pre-hire test if they were still using drugs or alcohol. All that has changed with the welcome addition of the Federal Motor Carrier Drug and Alcohol Testing Clearinghouse three years ago.


Now, if you fail a drug test, this information goes directly into this national database which is meant to notify both employers and all state licensing departments of the prohibited status of the driver. A refusal to test or if you fail a drug test has the same status. It puts the driver in a prohibited status; they cannot be legally hired as a CDL driver until and unless they contact a Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) who is a licensed mental health counselor who specializes in helping DOT drivers get back to an active status after they fail a drug test. A SAP gives the driver the prescribed steps of drug and alcohol education and/or treatment they need to get back in business. This SAP service will cost the driver money unless their employer is paying for it through union-bargaining agreement or a company “last-chance agreement.”


Drivers who try and go to another employer after they fail a drug test without doing the SAP required treatment and education to pass their Return-to-Duty Test, now have 2 hurdles to get over; a) their CDL is now suspended in all states and b) they are now a national database (FMCSA Clearinghouse) in a prohibited status. Any employer who hires a driver in a prohibited status can face stiff fines up to $25,000.00 and any driver who drives in a prohibited status can also be fined up to $2,500.00 and get their CDL removed permanently. Trying to get a new DOT CDL by getting a new DOT number does not work either as this process is being monitored by the Department of Transportation as well.

Further, it also depends on how you fail a drug test. If you failed because you were pulled over and cited for being under the influence of drugs or alcohol (at .04 or greater), that is considered a major DOT violation which results in a minimum of a one-year suspension of your CDL, unless you are transporting hazardous materials in which case, it’s a 3-year CDL suspension. A 2nd major violation would result in a ban on being allowed to be a CDL driver for life.

Considering this, it’s practical to say, if you have a current substance abuse disorder, or even if you like to use drugs recreationally and don’t think you have a problem, using drugs, even marijuana and being a professional CDL driver, do not mix.


Once you fail a drug test, and then follow through with the SAP requirements for drug and alcohol education and/or treatment, your next hurdle will be to get a new job. For most drivers, this will mean being up front with any potential new employer by letting them know you failed a drug test and that a “return-to-duty” test will be required and that you are currently in a follow-up program. You’ll also need to have your own account in the Federal Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, so an employer can even hire you.

Even drivers who works for themselves, also called an owner/operator will have to have an account in the Clearinghouse so a “return-to-duty” test can be done when they sign up with a DOT Consortium-Third Party Administrator (C-TPA) and will have the C-TPA do their return-to-duty tests and follow-up tests. In those situations, the driver may need to pay for those follow-up tests in advance. Again, not being in a random testing program or driving in a prohibited status after a violation, can result in having your CDL license permanently revoked.

So, in conclusion, it’s possible to be rehired or start over as an owner/operator after you fail a drug test, if you follow the steps above and are willing to commit to a drug-free lifestyle as a commercial driver. For more information about this subject, contact Drug Free Business.

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