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DOT Drug Testing

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The Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act of 1991 requires drug and alcohol testing of safety-sensitive transportation employees in aviation, trucking, railroads, mass transit, pipelines, and other transportation industries. DOT publishes rules on who must conduct drug and alcohol tests, how to conduct those tests, and what procedures to use when testing. These regulations cover all transportation employers, safety-sensitive transportation employees, and service agents – roughly 10 million people. Encompassed in 49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 40, the Office of Drug & Alcohol Policy & Compliance (ODAPC) publishes, implements, and provides authoritative interpretations of these rules.

What Type of Testing do they do? Urine for Illegal Drugs, 5 Panel. The Breathalyzer for Alcohol Test.

What Drugs are Tested For?

Drug and alcohol compliancy programs for the Department of Transportation (D.O.T), DOT Supervisor Training, and Workers’ Drug Education Programs for DOT regulated companies. Department of Transportation (DOT) and The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations call for Pre-employment testing, random, post-accident, reasonable suspicion, and return-to duty testing. A driver must have a negative drug test result before they can be DOT qualified. The DOT test panel includes testing for the following drugs.



Amphetamines represent a wide array of stimulants, ranging from legal to illegal substances. An amphetamine is a stimulant that causes increased brain alertness and physical stimulation. Prescribed amphetamines include Dexedrine, Adderall, and Vyvanse. In a DOT test, a valid prescription for these medicines will negate any punishment for having these amphetamines. Other amphetamines include methamphetamine and dextroamphetamine.


Cocaine also referred to as coke and blow, is a stimulant; however, it is not part of the amphetamine family. Cocaine is processed from the leaf of the coca plant that grows in South America. For hundreds of years people used it for its medical benefits and stimulant properties. Cocaine passes through the body very quickly; however, the metabolites used to process the cocaine stay in your body for an average of eight days.


Marijuana is also tested for with the DOT drug test. Marijuana is a psychoactive drug that contains the chemical compound THC. THC uses metabolites to clear it through the system. These metabolites are stored in fat, taking longer for the metabolites to clear from your system as compared to other drugs.


Opiates represent a variety of different drugs, ranging from illegal to medically prescribed drugs. Loritab, Percacet and Vicoden are all opiates that are legally prescribed. Heroin, a derivative of opium, is highly addictive and illegal. Heroin, also referred to as angel, is normally injected through the vein. Opiates are central nervous system suppressants and are used to dull sensory receptors in the brain.


The DOT test also looks for the metabolites of PCP. PCP was originally used as an anesthetic during the 1950s and became a problem drug in the 1960s. Today, all forms of PCP are illegal. PCP makes users mimic the symptoms of schizophrenia, such as hallucinations and extreme mania. Because PCP disassociates feelings of pain to the brain it is known as the superman drug, as individuals are able to survive major injuries during the “high,” including gunshots.

D.O.T – Cut Off Levels A DOT test is the abbreviation for a Department of Transportation. This means the testing guidelines have been regulated by the DOT, and if the guidelines are not followed the results are considered invalid. Not all tests are DOT regulated, but most are. To make the testing process easier companies follow the DOT guidelines to minimize mistakes. The first test for the DOT is a five panel EMIT. The cut off for marijuana on the screen is 50 ng/ml, which is a composite of all 31 metabolite concentrations. If the sample is below this level the test is over as a passing status. If the sample is over 50 ng/ml the sample is sent on to a GC/MS for confirmation. The cutoff for the confirmation is lower at 15 ng/ml because the machine only identifies one of the 31 metabolites which is the 11-nor-D-9-tetrahyrocanibinolic acid. To pass, the one metabolite must be below the 15-ng/ml cutoff. The chart below summarizes five drugs of abuse found on the screen. Drug # of Metabolites EMIT cut off GC/MS cut off Marijuana 31 50 ng/ml 15 ng/ml Cocaine 4 300 ng/ml 150 ng/ml Opiates 3 2000 ng/ml 2000 ng/ml Phencyclidine 1 25 ng/ml 25ng/ml Amphetamines 5 1000 ng/ml 500 ng/ml

As an employee or employer, how do I know if I am subject to DOT testing? Generally, DOT regulations cover safety-sensitive transportation employers and employees. Each DOT agency (e.g. FRA, FMCSA, FTA, FAA, and PHMSA) and the USCG have specific drug and alcohol testing regulations that outline who is subject to their testing regulations.

How does 49 CFR Part 40 differ from the DOT Agency specific regulations? 49 CFR Part 40 (commonly referred to as “Part 40″) states: • how drug and alcohol testing is conducted, • who is authorized to participate in the drug and alcohol testing program, and • what employees must do before they may return-to-duty following a drug and/or alcohol violation.

The DOT Agency and the USCG specific regulations state: • the agency’s prohibitions on drug and alcohol use, • who is subject to the regulations, • what testing is authorized, • when testing is authorized, and • the consequences of non-compliance. The DOT Agencies and the USCG incorporate Part 40 into their regulations and enforce compliance of all their respective regulations.

Is there a list of prohibited drugs for being medically qualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle (CMV)? Section 391.41(b)(12) states: A person is physically qualified to drive a CMV if that person does not use a controlled substance identified in 21 CFR 1308.11, Schedule I, an amphetamine, a narcotic, or any other habit-forming drug. Exception: A driver may use such a substance or drug, if the substance or drug is prescribed by a licensed medical practitioner who is familiar with the driver’s medical history and assigned duties; and has advised the driver that the prescribed substance or drug will not adversely affect the driver’s ability to safely operate a CMV. This exception does not apply to methadone. Medical Examiners are required to give careful consideration to the effects of medications on a driver’s ability to operate a CMV safely before rendering the driver qualified.

Minimum Testing Rates The percentage of safety-sensitive transportation employees randomly drug-tested every year varies depending on the DOT agency. In 2010, minimum random drug testing rates are: Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Railroad Administration, Federal Transit Administration and Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, 25 percent of employees; Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and U.S. Coast Guard, 50 percent.

Testing Process The Federal Regulations Code specifies rules for collecting drug test specimens from DOT employees. Employees selected for random drug testing must submit urine specimens at a specified collection site. Tests are conducted by a certified collector. The test administrator must begin the collection process soon after the employee enters the collection site. Before submitting a urine specimen, the employee must present employer-issued photo identification, remove all outer clothing and empty his pockets so that the collector can verify that the employee is not concealing any items or substances that could be used to tamper with the specimen.

Rules on Test Failure If a transportation employee fails a random drug test (either by refusing to test, testing positive or adulterating a specimen), the worker is banned from safety-sensitive duties until she has seen a substance abuse professional and completed a “return to duty” process, which includes another drug test. DOT regulations do not address whether the employee who fails a random drug test will be terminated or subject to any other employer actions; these decisions are left to the employer’s discretion.

2015 DOT Random Testing Rates Notice Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy and Compliance The following chart outlines the annual minimum drug and alcohol random testing rates established within DOT Agencies and the USCG for 2015:

DOT Agency 

2015 Random Drug Testing Rate

2015 Random Alcohol Testing Rate

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) 50% 10% 
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) 25% 10% 
Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) 25%  10%
Federal Transit Administration (FTA) 25% 10%
Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) 25% Not Applicable 
United States Coast Guard (USCG)(now with Dept. of Homeland Security) 25% Not Applicable


 Updated: May 2015


NOTE: Employers (and C/TPAs) subject to more than one DOT Agency drug and alcohol testing rule may continue to combine covered employees into a single random selection pool. However, companies (and C/TPAs) doing so must test at or above the highest minimum annual random testing rates established by the DOT Agencies under whose jurisdiction they fall. For example, an employer having both FMCSA- and FRA-covered employees in one pool must test, as a minimum rate, 50% for drugs and 10% for alcohol. PHMSA- and USCG-regulated employees should not to be placed in DOT random alcohol testing pools. Contact the appropriate DOT Agency for additional clarification. [Please note that USCG covered employees may be combined with DOT covered employees in drug testing pools even though the USCG is now part of the Department of Homeland Security.]


On Site Technicians are Certified:
FMCSA DOT Regulations 49 CFR Part 382
FRA DOT Regulation 49 CFR Part 219
FTA DOT Regulation 49 CFR Part 655
FAA DOT Regulation 49 CFR Part 120

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