DOT or Non-DOT Testing

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2 February 2021 >> , ,

DOT or Non-DOT Testing

DOT or Non-DOT Testing

TAKEAWAY: Whether you are operating in Canada or in the U.S., as an employer, you have a legal responsibility to provide a safe environment for your workers. So DOT or Non-DOT testing? What is the difference? Find out which option to choose for your Drug-Free Testing Program or Fit For Duty Policy.

Whether you are operating in Canada or in the U.S., as an employer, you have a legal responsibility to provide a safe environment for your workers. One of the most widely recognized safety concerns for employers is employee drug and alcohol abuse. Work-related injuries, including those from drug and alcohol abuse, affect businesses on many levels and can lead to legal implications, higher worker’s compensation insurance premiums, decreases in employee morale, and life-changing effects for employees and their families. The important question for corporate decision-makers at this point becomes; what is the best Drug-Free Program or Fit For Duty Policy to follow, DOT (Department of Transportation) or Non-DOT testing?

There are several notable differences between the 2 programs, and employers should investigate the best solution for their businesses before attempting to implement any program. Regardless of your final decision on which drug testing program your company must follow, a good drug and alcohol policy should be written and well-explained to employees.


DOT Regulations are directed towards safety-sensitive transportation positions that include Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), Federal Transit Administration (FTA), Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), and US Coast Guard (Department of Homeland Security) (USCG).

The DOT takes jurisdiction for the interstate trucking industry when vehicles transporting hazardous materials are traveling public roads, whether interstate or intrastate.

If there is any doubt concerning compliance, an employer or employee can take a quick test online offered by the U.S. Department of Transportation to see if they are covered under the DOT Drug and Alcohol program at “Am I Covered.” (Note: If you have a Canadian company, this only applies if you have employees crossing the Canada/U.S. border or have U.S. based divisions that meet the criteria.)

The DOT Drug and Alcohol Test screening process is relatively simple, covering most common illegal drugs. Since accredited testing laboratories and service providers are abundant throughout North America, it makes following the DOT drug testing standard convenient even if a company isn’t in the transportation business. That being said, if your company is not required to follow U.S. DOT programs you cannot “opt in” and try to follow every aspect of the program. As such, it is prudent for an employer to affirm the DOT testing standards allowed in their jurisdictions before implementing a program.

DOT 5-Panel Drug Testing

All DOT drug testing must be done at laboratories certified by the Department of Health and Human Services. Under current DOT regulations, all drug test specimens must be urine. This is expected to change in the near future to also allow for lab-based oral fluid testing (stay tuned for more information regarding updates to DOT regulations).  

DOT Alcohol Screening

DOT alcohol screening tests are conducted using either breath or saliva. DOT alcohol confirmation tests must be conducted using Evidential Breath Testing Devices (EBTs) that only analyze breath.

When to Test Under DOT Regulations

Under DOT rules, testing must be completed at specific stages of employment and after certain events. DOT regulations stipulate that, testing must be done pre-employment, at random during employment, whenever there is reasonable suspicion or reasonable cause, after an accident, before an employee returns to duty, as a follow up after the employee returns to duty following an accident, or following a policy violation.


Key Provisions of Non-DOT Standards limit who is covered under the rules and regulations set by the Department of Transportation (DOT). Employees just driving a company vehicle, not transporting cargo or passengers, are not necessarily subject to the same DOT regulations regarding drug testing.

Non-DOT Drug Testing

Outside of DOT regulations, companies may use drug tests that can detect a wider variety of drugs. These tests involve different types of samples, such as saliva, hair samples, or breathalyzers.

Drug-Free Workplace/ Fit For Duty Policy: Non-DOT Program

Questions to consider when determining whether to choose a Non-DOT Drug-Free Testing Program or Fit For Duty Policy include:

  • Do your employees work in a safety and/or security-sensitive jobs?
  • Is the business federally funded?
  • Does the business fall under the transportation sector?
  • Is there an existing drug/alcohol problem in the company? and
  • Does the workforce need prevention education?

Companies have much more freedom to design their own drug programs when they do not fall under DOT regulations. You can test employees: for cause or reasonable suspicion, randomly, under a set routine schedule, upon returning to work after a serious medical treatment or rehab, and post-incident.

Best Practices for Drug-Free Workplace Testing & Fit For Duty Policy

“It is estimated that nearly 5% of the world’s population have used an illicit substance, 240 million people around the world use alcohol problematically, and approximately 15 million people use injection drugs.” (Canadian Mental Health Association, 2020).

Taking these statistics into account, most employers that are not under DOT jurisdiction would be wise to establish their own Drug Free Workplace Programs or Fit For Duty Policies under the advisement of an employment lawyer. This is the best way for an employer to avoid implementation mistakes and to ensure a legally compliant program.

Drug-free workplace programs and Fit For Duty Policies can help employers create cost-effective, safe, and healthy workplaces. It is another way to communicate to your employees that you care about their safety and health.

Early studies have indicated that successful programs and policies generally have at least five key components:

  • A written policy
  • Employee education
  • Supervisor training
  • An employee assistance program (EAP)
  • Drug testing


Did you know? SureHire offers DOT and Non-Dot testing as well as random program management. Contact us today to learn more and find out why thousands of companies across North America choose SureHire as their trusted provider of occupational health testing services.

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