Is a DOT Drug Test Urine or Hair?

The Department of Transportation conducts frequent drug testing to ensure the safety of its employees and the people they interact with. DOT-regulated employees are subject to pre-employment drug testing, random drug testing, reasonable suspicion drug testing, post-accident drug testing, and follow-up drug testing as part of the Return-to-Duty process. The question is: what type of drug testing does the DOT use? Is a DOT drug test urine or hair? Read on to find out.

The DOT Uses Urine Analysis…for Now

Currently, the Department of Transportation uses urine analysis for drug testing. However, there are discussions about including hair specimens in DOT drug testing. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is evaluating the benefits and scientific validity of including hair specimens in the testing process. The changes resulting from this conversation may not go into effect until 2021 or later, but it is something to be mindful of.

How Does a Urine Drug Test Work?

Each DOT agency has its own procedure for drug and alcohol testing, but the general steps are the same throughout. Here is an overview of a DOT urine drug test, step by step:

  • The employee is notified to submit a drug test.
  • The employee immediately goes to the collection site to complete drug testing.
  • The employee provides identity verification and then submits a urine sample into a designated kit.
  • The collector verifies the temperature of the urine and splits it into two bottles.
  • The collector seals Samples A and B, and the employee signs paperwork verifying the validity of the samples.
  • The lab analyzes Sample A and reports the results to the Medical Review Officer (MRO).
  • The MRO evaluates the results to determine if there were any issues that may have altered the test results.
  • The MRO provides a final report to the Designated Employer Representative (DER).

If the employee passes the urine analysis, he or she can continue working like normal. If the employee fails the drug test, he or she must be immediately removed from safety-sensitive duties until completing the Return-to-Duty process (RTD).

What Does a DOT Urine Drug Test Look for?

The DOT uses a 5 panel drug test. This urine analysis looks for traces of cocaine, opioids, THC (marijuana), amphetamines, and phencyclidine (PHP). This includes some prescription drugs, such as amphetamine/dextroamphetamine (Adderall), hydrocodone (Lortab, Norco, Vicodin), and oxycodone (Percocet). It’s the Medical Review Officer’s job to determine if there is a valid prescription and medical reason for these substances to show on the urine analysis.

It is possible for THC to show on a DOT urine drug test even if a person has used CBD, not marijuana. CBD products are not well-regulated, and they are readily available. A product claiming to have less than 0.3% THC may actually have a higher level, thus resulting in a positive drug test. Until marijuana is federally legal, THC is not permitted at any level for DOT-regulated employees. Keep this in mind if you use CBD products for pain or anxiety.

What to Do If You Fail a Urine Drug Test

If you fail a DOT urine test, you will immediately be released from safety-sensitive job duties. This does not mean that you’ll permanently lose your job. That is at the discretion of your employer. Before returning to work, you’ll need to see a Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) to complete the Return-to-Duty process (RTD).

The RTD is different for everyone. Your SAP will recommend the appropriate education, counseling, treatment, or other steps for you to take in order to return to work. After completing those steps, you’ll need to pass a follow-up urine test before being released for safety-sensitive duties. At ASAP, we have an 85% success rate at helping clients return to work after a failed urine test.


Sudarsan Chakraborty is a professional writer. He contributes to many high-quality blogs. He loves to write on various topics.