The differences between DOT and Non-DOT Drug Testing

Employment drug testing in the United States falls into two major categories and it is important for employers to understand so their companies are compliant with applicable laws and also equipped to build safe work environments guarded against the harms of drug use.

We get this question all the time – What is the difference between a regular drug test and a DOT drug test? In this article we will discuss:

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DOT Drug Testing

The first category of employment drug testing, commonly known as “DOT testing,” affects more than 1 million businesses across the nation in which people work in safety-sensitive, transportation-related jobs. DOT testing is required by the federal government and regulated by the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) and its reporting agencies, including the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the Federal Railroad Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration. Everyone subject to the commercial driver’s license requirements and their employers must follow federal rules for alcohol and drug testing. Those rules govern testing procedures, the frequency of testing and the substances tested for.

Non-DOT Drug Testing

The second category of employment drug testing in the U.S. is often called “non-DOT testing,” — and it is what it sounds like. This testing is neither federally regulated nor required for the more than 30 million non-regulated businesses in the U.S. to conduct. However, millions of employers do maintain and enforce workplace drug-use policies and testing requirements because they want to maximize worker productivity, lower rates of employee absenteeism and workplace injury, and significantly lower their risk of a wide range of liabilities. Non-DOT testing is conducted under an employer’s authority and should follow a program that consistently and lawfully enforces the company’s drug-free workplace policy. Non-DOT testing programs can be modeled after a DOT drug testing program — an approach often called “DOT-like drug testing” — or they could be more customized to meet the employer’s needs.

Quick Overview of DOT and Non-DOT Drug Testing

We get this question all the time: “What are the differences between a regular drug test and a DOT drug test?” To understand the answer, it is smart first to have a command of the federal framework of drug testing requirements. 

DOT-regulated employers are subject to drug and alcohol testing stipulated by the Code of Federal Regulations — specifically 49 CFR Part 40, which details how, when and of whom testing should be performed, including:

Employees subject to DOT drug testing requirements are often referred to as “covered” or “safety-sensitive” workers. Only these employees should be subject to DOT drug and alcohol testing requirements as outlined by 49 CFR Part 40. DOT-regulated employers have additional regulations to follow based on the DOT agency under which they are further supervised. These include:

Violations of DOT drug and alcohol testing rules result in an employee’s removal from safety-sensitive work positions and responsibilities and require that the employee be afforded the support of a Substance Abuse Professional’s program and permitted follow-up testing and a possible return to duty.

It is common for employers to have employees who are DOT-regulated and employees who are not. These employers conduct drug and alcohol testing in accordance with federal law and testing that honors the rules of their own company workplace drug policies. DOT test records must be stored separately from non-DOT — or “company authority” — test records.

Differences between DOT and Non-DOT Drug testing

In a nutshell, DOT-regulated testing must adhere to the federal rules detailed in 49 CFR Part 40, while non-DOT-regulated employers may choose to establish programs that mirror those requirements and even exceed them.
Differences between DOT and non-DOT drug testing programs include:

Comparison Chart DOT vs Non-DOT Drug Testing

DOT Drug & Alcohol Testing
Non-DOT Drug Testing

For more information on DOT and Non-DOT drug testing programs please visit these pages on our web site:

DOT Drug Testing & Services

Workplace Drug Testing Programs & Services

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