What are the testing procedures for CDL Drivers?

What are the testing procedures for CDL Drivers?


Professional drivers are usually required to undergo a medical examination and obtain a Medical Examiner’s Certificate (MEC) from a qualified medical professional. This certificate is necessary to prove that you are physically fit to operate a commercial vehicle.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) drug test is a separate requirement from the Medical Examiner’s Certificate (MEC) when it comes to obtaining or renewing a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). The DOT drug test is a mandatory drug and alcohol screening that CDL holders must undergo as part of their employment and licensing requirements.

Worried about an upcoming DOT 5 panel drug test? If so, you may wonder what DOT tests for and what types of substances may cause you to fail a drug test. In the guide below, we’ll explore the specific substances the Department of Transportation looks for and what you can do if you fail a 5-panel drug test.

What Is a DOT 5 Panel Drug Test?

Simply put, a 5-panel drug test is a urine test that looks for five categories of drugs/medication. These categories include:

  • Cocaine
  • THC (Marijuana)
  • Opioids
  • Amphetamines
  • Phencylcidine (PCP)

DOT-regulated workers may be asked to complete a 5-panel drug test for pre-employment, post-accident, suspicious cause, random drug testing, and other circumstances. If you are a safety-sensitive employee, you could be drug tested at almost any time.

What DOT Tests for during Drug Testing

DOT drug tests look for certain drugs and metabolites in urine. Metabolites are byproducts of substances, like fingerprints left over at a crime scene. We briefly listed the contents of a DOT 5 panel drug test above, but here is a more inclusive list of the types of drugs the DOT tests for:

  • Marijuana metabolites and THC from cannabis products(See below for information about CBD)
  • Opioids, including oxymorphone, heroin (6-AM), hydrocodone, morphine, oxycodone, codeine, and hydromorphone
  • Cocaine metabolites
  • Amphetamines, including amphetamine/dextroamphetamine (Adderall), methamphetamine and MDMA (ecstasy/molly)
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)

Note that the list includes prescription medications, legalized drugs, and illegal drugs. A 5-panel drug test looks for much more than illegal drugs. Be cautious about what you take as a DOT-regulated employee and have proper documentation for any prescriptions you may be on.

Will I Fail a Drug Test for Prescription Drugs or Medical Marijuana?

It’s possible to have a positive drug test without failing a drug test. If you have a valid prescription, you won’t fail a DOT 5 panel drug test for prescription drugs. The most common prescription drugs detected a DOT drug test include: amphetamine/dextroamphetamine (Adderall), hydrocodone (Norco, Lortab, Vicodin), oxycodone (Oxycet, Percocet, Roxicet) and codeine (commonly found in prescription cough syrups).

If the drug test reveals traces of a prescription medication in your system, the test administrator will verify your prescription and dosage level. If the information aligns correctly, you will pass the drug test. If there is an issue with the prescription or you do not have a prescription, you will most likely fail the drug test and have to complete the Return-to-Duty process.

Medical marijuana is not considered a valid prescription drug at this time. Even if your state has legalized marijuana, it is not legal on the federal level yet. If the drug test detects THC, you will fail, regardless of your prescription status.

Does DOT Drug Test for CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD) comes from the cannabis plant and is a popular over-the-counter treatment for anxiety, pain, and inflammation. CBD may come from two different sources – hemp plants and marijuana plants. Hemp-derived CBD has less than 0.3% THC (the psychoactive substance in marijuana). Thus it can be sold and consumed without a medical marijuana license.

CBD products are not well regulated, so there is no guarantee that they have less than 0.3% THC. Because of this, using CBD on a regular basis may cause you to fail a DOT drug test. The THC in the CBD product would register on the test just like it would from marijuana. The DOT recommends using caution with CBD oil if you are a safety-sensitive employee.

What to Do If You Fail a 5 Panel DOT Drug Test

Failing a 5-panel drug test doesn’t have to be the end of your DOT career. In order to regain employment, you must complete the Return-to-Duty process and pass a follow-up DOT drug test. The journey starts with a one-on-one consultation with a Substance Abuse Professional (SAP). American Substance Abuse Professionals has DOT SAPs throughout the country, all qualified by the Department of Transportation.