What is Non-DOT Drug Test and is it Different from DOT Screen?

A non-DOT drug test is a common screening procedure that many companies use for drug and alcohol testing of potential employees in accordance with their substance abuse policies.

Workplace drug testing (non-DOT or DOT) will usually be non-invasive, such as urine, hair follicle or oral fluid testing method. In rare cases, employee drug test can be done by collecting a blood sample.

Let’s answer important questions you might have if you are being required to undergo non-DOT drug testing process.

What are DOT & non-DOT drug test differences?

In a nutshell, non-DOT drug test is pre-employment or random testing procedure used by a company that is not regulated by the Department of Transportation (DOT).

Standard DOT drug test is a form of federal drug testing for any job that falls underneath the umbrella of the Department of Transportation, which includes:

  • Federal Transit Authority (FTA)
  • Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
  • Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)
  • Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)
  • Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA)
  • U.S. Coast Guard (USCG)

Transportation industry has a stringent drug testing policy because the work is described as being ‘safety-sensitive’. DOT regulations will require an employee to take a drug and alcohol test in the following situations:

  • Pre-employment drug screen
  • Post-accident drug test
  • Random testing
  • Return-to-duty screening
  • Reasonable suspicion screening
  • Follow-up drug test

In contrast, non-DOT drug test may be used for safety-sensitive positions in companies that are not regulated by DOT drug testing policy and don’t need to use Federal Drug Testing Control and Custody Form (CCF).

A company may have its own drug-free workplace policies for safety-sensitive employee drug testing to discourage drug use. There’s a range of drug tests non-DOT employers can use, which includes 5-panel drug test similar to the one used by DOT, as well as comprehensive 10-panel tests.

The most common non-DOT employee drug testing used is 5-panel urine drug test, but in some cases, mouth swab or hair follicle drug test can be employed to find drug users.

Non-DOT drug tests can include a different number of drug panels. The most common is 5-panel test, which will screen for THC, cocaine, amphetamines (including methamphetamines), opiates, and phencyclidine (PCP).

But there are more extensive non-DOT drug tests including 7, 9, 10, or even 12 panels. Additionally, EtG (alcohol) test of urine specimens can be included as add-on.

10-panel non-DOT drug test cutoff levels

As we’ve already learned, many employers choose to create a drug-free workplace, so they will hire a drug testing company to implement a workplace program for employee screening. More on that later.

Non-DOT drug testing programs can take different forms, and the way test is done can affect substance cutoff levels. Drug cutoff level is the point where the amount of a substance in person’s system will constitute a positive drug test result.

Opposite is true, meaning if the amount of drug metabolites in the system of potential drug abusers is below this level, the test will show a negative result.

Let’s have a look at the drugs that are often tested for by a non-DOT ten-panel drug test and what are common cut-off levels when testing hair follicle, saliva and urine samples:

Cutoff levelUrineSalivaHair
Amphetamines1,000 ng/ml50 ng/ml500 ng/ml
Cocaine300 ng/ml20 ng/ml500 ng/ml
MDMA (Ecstasy)500 ng/ml50 ng/ml500 ng/ml
Marijuana (THC)50 ng/ml40 ng/ml0.10 pg/mg
Opiates2,000 ng/ml40 ng/ml200 ng/ml
Phenylcyclidine25 ng/ml10 ng/ml300 ng/ml
Barbiturates300 ng/ml300 ng/ml
Benzodiazepines300 ng/ml50 ng/ml
Methadone500 ng/ml75 ng/ml
Oxycodone100 ng/ml50 ng/ml200 ng/ml

What labs do non-DOT drug tests?

In most cases, non-DOT employee drug testing will go through one of three major drug labs, and then analyzed by a medical review officer (MRO) in employer’s human resources department.

The three largest labs that perform drug and alcohol testing are as following:

Concentra Occupational Health

Concentra has been in business for over three decades. It has 520 medical facilities in 44 states. It is part of the Select Medical Group and is known for its friendly customer service team.

Quest Diagnostics

Quest Diagnostics is another leader in the pre-employment drug testing field that has been around for close to half a century. It has a national network of laboratories, collection sites, and testing facilities throughout the USA.

Laboratory Corporation of America (LabCorp)

LabCorp is based in Arlington, North Carolina. It is a global company, though, that employs over 65,000 people around the world. 

Frequently Asked Questions:

Can you smoke weed right after a drug test?

Smoking after pre-employment drug testing collection process is entirely your choice. However, it is recommended to make sure you’ve left drug testing facility before you light up.
There’s a possibility of second test for drugs and alcohol being required if there is an issue with your first one. Your sample could get lost during transit or compromised at the drug testing facility because of human error.
To avoid producing a positive sample for nicotine or THC, it is recommended that you await your non-DOT pre-employment drug test results before smoking.

Should I bring my prescriptions to a drug test?

There should be no reason to bring prescriptions to the collection process at drug testing facility unless employees were asked to do so by their employer.
Each drug screen procedure is different, though. Employees should always make sure that they’ve made contact with testing facility to get confirmation of whether they’ll need to bring their prescriptions or not.

Can I pass pre-employment drug test if I have a medical card?

If you’ve smoked marijuana within the detection period, and there’s a test panel for it, you will fail the screening regardless of the reasons for consuming it.
The question of whether a failed screening for marijuana excludes you from the possibility of being hired for the job is different. It will depend upon the state and the employer.
For example, in California, marijuana is legal for medicinal purposes. And it’s possible to get a medical card for marijuana if a doctor has written you up for it.
But the Californian Supreme Court1 and local government still maintain that employer reserves the right to employ you or not if you fail marijuana screening even if you have a medical card.

Can you get fired for having a medical marijuana card?

Generally, no. However, it depends on the state, your workplace and the type of work you do. For example, there are specific requirements needed to ensure any form of safety-sensitive work can be done safely.
That means any drug use – even if done legally – can be enough for employers to remove an employee from their job. It’s best to speak to a lawyer if you have a medical card and have been invited to a non-DOT drug test.

Does medical card show up during a background check?

No, this is part of your medical record. There are countless rules in place to ensure that medical records are kept private.


Now you know the differences between DOT and non-DOT drug test and when they’re used, such as reasonable suspicion and return-to-duty cases.

Of course, with DOT testing, there are more stringent rules in place due to safety-sensitive nature of these jobs. Whether you have to take an employer DOT or non-DOT test for alcohol and drugs, you want to be sure you pass the test.

Every employee should always know their rights, so if you are being asked to submit to drug tests, make sure that you’ve acquainted yourself with your rights beforehand, even if that means contacting a lawyer.