DOT vs Non-DOT Drug Tests: Know the Difference

Jill Caren
By Jill Caren
Updated January 28th, 2024

DOT vs non dot drug tests, what are the differences and why should you care?

This article will help you understand the difference between DOT and non-DOT drug testing. It can definitely be confusing. That is why we are here to break down the difference so you can better understand what you can expect if you have to do either of these drug test.

Dot vs Non Dot Drug Test

A DOT drug test is a government-regulated test done by the Department of Transportation which tests safety-sensitive employees. These tests check for drugs and alcohol and are used to ensure the public’s safety.

Non-DOT drug tests check for drugs and alcohol as well; however, this type of testing is not government regulated, and each hiring company can use it however they see fit.

dot vs nondot drug test

A Closer Look at What DOT and Non DOT Drug Testing Are

DOT drug or alcohol testing is a test that DOT authority performs on a DOT-regulated employee. A DOT employee is considered a safety-sensitive employee.

Because DOT employees work in the transportation business and interact with the public, the rules for drug testing are rigorous and are required to follow the federal regulations for drug testing.

Non-DOT drug tests are done by employers that do not employ DOT regulated people. They have the authority to determine which of their employees they would like to test. They also have the option not to perform the duties to qualify. 

Depending on which state the business resides in, it will have regulations that workers need to meet in order to qualify. It can also determine which positions the drug-testing program will include. The main difference between the two tests is who manages each one.

DOT vs. Non-DOT Drug and Alcohol Testing 

Employees that work for companies not regulated by the US Department of Transportation can take non-DOT drug or alcohol tests. Corporate businesses state whether they are DOT or non-DOT companies in their drug testing policy. They also define that the individual can choose how many times and the type of testing they want.

DOT drug testing functions for industries that the government regulates, such as:

Individuals who have different jobs are still entitled to require drug testing, but those are non-DOT jobs. Both tests need chain-of-custody forms (CCF) to ensure accuracy.

Drugs DOT Testing Tests For:

DOT testing uses a five-panel screen, where it tests for the following drugs:

  • PCP
  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamines/methamphetamines
  • Opiates 

DOT testing primarily uses urine specimens to test for drugs.

Drugs Non-DOT Testing Tests For:

Non-DOT tests can use the same five-panel screening process as the DOT tests; however, it also checks for additional drugs, such as:

  • Quaaludes
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Propoxyphene
  • Methadone
  • Barbiturates
  • Hallucinogens
  • Anabolic Steroids,
  • Prescription Painkillers
  • Ecstasy

Non-DOT testing can use urine samples, hair follicles, oral fluid, or a combination of all three to test for drugs.

Different Types of Non-DOT Testing

There are particular circumstances where safety-sensitive employees might be required to participate in a non-DOT drug or alcohol test. Each individual employer determines the tests, and they can choose to test their employees in the following situations:

Pre-Employment Tests: Requiring a drug test from potential employees ensures that you are hiring individuals who are free from drugs. It also aids in keeping a drug-free workplace. It is essential to screen for chronic drug users as they can become a liability to your company.

Random Testing: Random drug testing helps the business enforce its no-drug policy. A computer chooses the names of the employees at random. The computer program keeps the drug testing genuinely random. Random testing can happen whenever the company thinks it is necessary. It can take place monthly, quarterly, or annually.

Post-Accident Tests: Requiring a drug or alcohol test after a severe accident can help prevent the company from any legal ramifications if the employee claims they are at fault. Having a protocol in place post-accident ensures that you can quickly and efficiently require the drug test before the drugs leave their system.

Reasonable Suspicion Testing: This type of testing is for if the supervisor believes the employee is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Reasonable suspicion testing requires the company to have trained supervisors who can determine if an employee is acting suspiciously.

Return-to-Duty Tests: These tests are for employees who are returning to work after an accident or a previous failed drug test. This ensures that the returning employee is clean from any drugs or alcohol and can perform their job adequately.

Follow-Up Tests: Follow-up tests are an excellent way to ensure that employees who have passed the return-to-duty tests are still not using drugs or alcohol after a few weeks or a year. Keeping these tests random guarantees that the employee does not have the opportunity to stop doing drugs when they know their employer will test them.

Why Choose to Drug Test Employees?

Drug testing employees has many benefits. It not only keeps your business safe from potential legal trouble, but it also ensures that the company and its employees are working at their best. Some other reasons include:

  • Maintain a safe work environment for customers and employees
  • Receive workers comp discount on premiums
  • Adhere to state or local laws
  • Prevent current employees from using drugs
  • Prevent drug-using employees from being hired
  • Help individuals who are struggling with drug use


DOT and non-DOT testing both have the right to terminate employment if the results test positive for drug or alcohol use. Depending on the company, they may fire you immediately or provide the option of a return-to-duty test.

DOT tests are more standardized, and only safety-sensitive employees have to participate. It only uses a five-panel drug screening and is designed to keep the public safe. 

Non-DOT drug testing is drug or alcohol testing performed on employees who work for non-regulated companies. State and local laws generally mandate Non-DOT drug tests. The individual employer determines the tests.

Jill Caren is an international SEO consultant and founder of 2Dogs Media. She is also a trainer, journalist, and speaker who helps brands increase their organic search visibility, traffic, and conversions. She is also the co-founder of Blue Collar Brain, a resource for those looking to enter a trade career.

She has been featured on MSN, Wealth of Geeks, Hubspot, SEO Powersuite, and other publications for her work as an SEO and advocate for skilled trades.