What happens if you test positive for a DOT drug test?

If you test positive for a Department of Transportation (DOT) drug test, there are several immediate and long-term consequences. The DOT has strict regulations regarding drug and alcohol use in safety-sensitive industries. These rules are enforced to ensure the safety of both the employees and the general public.

Immediate Consequences

According to the DOT Rule 49 CFR Part 40 Section 40.23, when an employee has a verified positive drug test result, they are immediately removed from performing safety-sensitive duties1. This includes roles in transportation, aviation, and other sectors where impaired judgment could lead to serious accidents or harm.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) also states that refusing to take a test is considered a violation, similar to testing positive, and carries the same consequences.

Return-to-Duty Process

A Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) driver who tests positive or refuses a DOT test must successfully complete the return-to-duty (RTD) process with a DOT qualified Substance Abuse Professional (SAP). The SAP will guide the employee through the necessary steps, including an evaluation, possible treatment or education, a follow-up evaluation, and follow-up testing.

Long-Term Consequences

A positive result on a DOT drug test can lead to suspension or even termination of employment. Some companies have a zero-tolerance policy for testing positive on a drug test.

The U.S. Department of Transportation also notes that if you test positive on two required tests, you may be permanently disqualified from performing the same type of safety-sensitive duties.

False Positives and Prescription Medication

If an employee claims that the result is a false positive, it’s important to note that all positive results undergo a confirmation test to avoid false positives. If an employee is taking prescription medication and it causes a positive result, the Medical Review Officer (MRO) will consider valid prescriptions during the review process.


A positive DOT drug test carries serious implications for both the employee and the employer. However, support and recovery are possible through the RTD process. It’s crucial for all employees in safety-sensitive positions to understand the importance of these regulations for their career and public safety.


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