Drug Testing at Trucking Companies: What You Need to Know

drug testing results

Drug Testing at Trucking Companies: What You Need to Know

Going for a drug test is a nerve-wracking experience, regardless of how confident you are about passing it. Whether you are a new truck driver getting ready for your pre-employment drug screen or an experienced driver who is required to take a test after a road incident, learning more about the truck driving drug test process can help you know what to expect.

Why Companies Perform Pre-Employment and Random Drug Tests

No matter which company you work for after getting a CDL, you will be required to pass a drug screen. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, trucking employers are legally mandated to test all drivers before allowing them to operate a commercial vehicle (2016).

Random drug tests are also part of this requirement. Employers must administer a specific amount of random drug tests each year, total to 10% or more of the average number of driver positions in the company (FMCSA, 2016). Owner operators must be part of a random drug testing consortium and have a random testing procedure with two or more other drivers (FMCSA, 2016).

The typical truck driving drug test looks for amphetamines, cocaine, marijuana, opiates, and PCP. Tests follow established thresholds for each drug, and testing above the approved level for any of them results in a positive drug screen.

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Drug Testing After an Accident

After an accident, trucking drug testing requirements are a bit different. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration only requires testing in specific circumstances, but many trucking companies that drug test automatically administer a test to any driver involved in an accident for insurance purposes.

In any case where a commercial driver receives a citation for an accident, the employer must perform a drug test. If there is any human fatality, the driver must be drug screened, even if the driver is not cited.

Other Drug Testing Circumstances for Truck Drivers

If you refuse a drug test or test positive for a substance, you must go through the return-to-duty process laid out by the Department of Transportation. This involves seeing a substance abuse professional and subsequently passing a drug test. In the 12 months that follow, your substance abuse professional must perform at least six random tests.

If a truck driver appears to be under the influence, the employer or supervisor may require an immediate drug and alcohol screen.

Urine Tests vs. Hair Tests

In the past, urine testing was accepted protocol at all trucking companies. Vice News reports that a new federal bill aims to require hair follicle testing for truck drivers (2016).

Testing the hair is considered to be more reliable than urine testing, since many types of illegal substances remain in hair follicles longer than they remain in the body. In 2008, J.B. Hunt established its own hair testing policy. Since then, they have not had any post-accident positive drug tests.

Whether or not this procedure becomes federal law, the number of companies that use this type of testing may increase in coming years.

Preparing for a Drug Screen

As you prepare for a drug screen, make sure you have any prescriptions for your medications easily available. Some legally prescribed medications can cause a false positive on a drug screen, in which case you may need to schedule a follow-up appointment and supply proof of your legal prescription.

Although drug testing may be inconvenient, it's just part of working as a truck driver. These tests help to keep unsafe drivers off the road, making the roads safer for everyone.