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Everything You Should Know About DOT Drug Testing

Drunk and drugged driving are among the leading causes of fatal vehicular accidents in the US. Intoxicated drivers endanger lives, including their own, their passengers’, as well as other road users’. This is precisely the reason the Department of Transportation (DOT) institutionalized a drug testing process for everyone who wants to get a job that involves transport. Whether you want to drive for a trucking business or be a chauffeur for the public, you first need to pass a stringent drug test standardized by the DOT. Here are a few important things to know about DOT drug tests:

Who Are Required to Take DOT Drug Tests?

Everyone who works in a safety-sensitive environment is required to take and pass the DOT-regulated tests. The department itself determines who are considered to be safety-sensitive employees. In a nutshell, they are people who perform jobs that are potentially dangerous. Any kind of mistake or accident can result in damage to property, as well as injuries or deaths of affected people.

Driving a commercial truck is a common example of a safety-sensitive job. People who do this work carry large vehicles on a public road. If by any chance they get involved in accidents, they can possibly cause different problems, depending on the severity of the crash. While road accidents are inevitable, the number of times they occur can still be diminished. One way is to zero in on one of their major causes: driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Aside from truck drivers, workers who are involved in transporting people and goods are considered safety-sensitive employees, as well. This goes for all workers that traverse the land, fare the seas, and fly in the sky. This means train operators, plane pilots, flight attendants, boating crew, and ship captains need to pass the DOT-regulated drug test, as well.

When Should Safety-Sensitive Employees Take the Test?

The first time a safety-sensitive employee will be required to pass the test is before they become employees themselves. The DOT drug examination is a vital part of the pre-employment process. This means that any applicant who refuses to take it shall not be qualified for the job.

Once they’ve already become full-fledged employees, they’re still not exempt from the tests. They can still be required to take the exam in one of these three situations:

  1. Random Tests – The schedule of random drug tests depends on the company you’re working for, but they’re usually done once every quarter. If you’re selected for the random tests, you cannot refuse, unless you want to face certain consequences.
  2. Reasonable Suspicion – If  your employer suspects that you’re using illegal substances, then you may be required to take a drug test. Suspicions typically arise after careful observations of the employee’s change in behavior, speech, appearance, and smell. Getting involved in an accident, no matter if it didn’t cause any injury or property damage, can be considered grounds for reasonable suspicion, as well.
  3. Return to Duty – An employee who took a prolonged leave of absence shall be required to take the exam again. They might not be allowed to get back to their old position until they pass the test.

What Happens to Anyone Who Fails the Test?

If an applicant fails the test during the pre-employment process, then they’re sure to be disqualified from the position. In some cases, they may still be allowed to apply again after a certain period, but there are companies who might bar them totally after failing the first time. It totally depends on the company’s policies and how safety-sensitive the job is.

There are different consequences for full-fledged employees who fail the test. More lenient companies may transfer the worker to another position that isn’t safety-sensitive. Meanwhile, some employers choose immediately terminating the employee. In a way, this protects the remaining workers and preserves the company’s reputation.

In the most severe cases, those who fail the test may have their license or certification revoked. This is a grave consequence, so some employees choose to appeal and say that it was a “false-positive” as a result of certain medications. When this happens, the testing center will re-examine their old sample. The employee may also be asked for proof, such as a note from a doctor or prescription, that they are indeed taking meds.

Refusing to take the test is usually results to failure. Those who do not want to undergo the DOT drug testing process may suffer the same consequences as those who failed the exam entirely.