What Happens in a CDL Pre-Employment Drug Screen?

Drug testing plays an integral part in having a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Drivers are tested before employment and throughout their careers to ensure safety on the road. In this guide, we’ll explore what happens in a CDL pre-employment drug screen, so you know what to expect along the way.

What the DOT Looks for in a CDL Pre-Employment Drug Screen

The Department of Transportation uses a 5-panel drug test. This is a urine analysis that looks for traces of:

  • Marijuana metabolites and THC
  • Prescription and non-prescription opioids, including heroin (6-AM), oxycodone, codeine, oxymorphone, hydrocodone, morphine, and hydromorphone.
  • Cocaine metabolites
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)
  • Amphetamines, such as methamphetamine, amphetamine/dextroamphetamine (Adderall), and MDMA (ecstasy/molly)

In most cases, a positive result on a drug screen leads to a ‘failed’ drug test. The exception to this rule is in the event of prescription medication. In that case, you must provide proper documentation to verify the prescription, including the dosage and reason for the prescription. Marijuana does not fit within this exception, even if you have a medical marijuana card. It is still illegal on a federal level, regardless of local laws.

What to Expect during Your CDL Drug Screen

The specific steps for a CDL drug screen depend on which DOT-regulated agency you are working for. Here is an overview of the general process:

  1. You are told to submit a drug test. In the case of a pre-employment drug screen, this may occur when you submit the application or at another designated time.
  2. You immediately report to the collection site for a urine analysis. This does not mean that you can report there within a few hours. You must go there right away.
  3. The collector verifies your ID and provides you with a sealed kit. You will be asked to empty your pockets and lift your shirt/pant legs to show you are not hiding anything on you. Don’t worry – your privacy is protected and the collector will be the same gender as you.
  4. You provide a urine specimen. Some collections require direct observation, but that is not typically the case.
  5. The collector checks the temperature of the urine, then distributes it into two cups. Once again, this verifies that you are submitting your own urine and not someone else’s.
  6. The two samples are sealed and sent out for lab testing. You will sign paperwork confirming the authenticity of the specimen.
  7. The Medical Review Officer analyzes the lab results and determines if there are any reasons for the test to show positive. For instance, if you have a prescription for pain medication, the MRO may ask you to provide that prescription information.
  8. The MRO provides the final results for the CDL pre-employment drug screen. This will determine if you can continue pursuing employment or if you will need to complete the Return-to-Duty process.

What Happens If I Fail a Pre-Employment Drug Screen? Can I Still Get a CDL?

If you fail or refuse a CDL pre-employment drug screen, you will not be allowed to complete safety-sensitive job duties. In other words, you will not be able to drive a commercial vehicle until you complete the Return-to-Duty process. This involves working with a DOT-qualified Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) to complete education, counseling, or other treatment options. The SAP will create a list of tasks for you to complete before returning to work. Then you will submit a follow-up drug test before being released for employment.

American Substance Abuse Professionals, Inc. has SAP programs for truck drivers, airline workers, bus drivers, and other safety-sensitive workers. With our network of over 5,000 DOT-qualified SAPs across the United States, our goal is to connect you with a SAP near you as quickly as possible.


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