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A Quick Look at DOT Drug and Alcohol Testing Compliance


Federal law requires employers who employ commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers, including school bus drivers, to implement a drug and alcohol testing program. Here’s a quick look at federally required tests (collectively referred to as DOT tests) you need to understand.


You must receive a negative drug test before permitting a CDL driver to operate a CMV. DOT pre-employment tests only check for controlled substances. You can also test for alcohol, but it’s not required under federal law. So, make sure your test administrator knows what to include in each test.

If your district is helping someone get a CDL, you must complete a pre-employment test after they earn their commercial learner’s permit (CLP). You can also require a test before drivers earn their CLP, but again, it’s not a DOT requirement.


When applicants pass their pre-employment tests, enter them into your random testing pool. Minimum random testing rates are 50% for drugs and 10% for alcohol. Plan to test above the minimum rates so you don't come up short when the school year ends.

If a driver who isn’t working during the summer is selected for a random test, you have two options. You can put their name back in the testing pool or hold their name. If they come back to perform safety-sensitive functions (see Table 2.1) before the next random selection, administer a test when they return.

Pro tip: It is critical that you maintain your testing pools to ensure random testing remains accurate. Some districts have multiple people maintaining multiple random testing spreadsheets. Consider investing in software that centralizes the process and makes it more efficient and accurate.

Reasonable Suspicion

The law requires employers to ensure everyone who supervises CDL holders receives 60 minutes of training on the signs of alcohol misuse and 60 minutes on the signs of drug misuse. Training must cover physical, behavioral, speech, and performance indicators.

What to Know About Reasonable Suspicion

  • No-cost training is available through a Texas Department of Transportation grant.
  • Re-training is not required.
  • Supervisors must document observable behaviors before receiving reasonable suspicion test results.
  • You must take the driver out of service until the supervisor receives negative test results. That means the driver can’t perform safety-sensitive functions, which include working in the dispatch office.

Pro tip. Your district decides which department oversees the testing program, but the transportation team is ideal if you have the staff and resources. Consider random testing, for example. Supervisors interact face-to-face with drivers daily. They are in the best position to recognize the red flags of alcohol or drug misuse.


If an accident involves a fatality, you must conduct a post-accident test even if your driver did not receive a citation. If an accident involves bodily injury or disabling damage to a vehicle and your driver receives a citation, you must conduct a post-accident test. Note that you don’t have to remove your driver from service before you receive test results unless your district policy requires you to.

The law provides an 8-hour post-accident window for alcohol testing and a 32-hour window for drug testing. Let’s consider how the window applies in these hypothetical scenarios:

  • Someone involved in the accident passes away 6 hours later: Test your driver for drugs and alcohol.
  • Someone passes away 15 hours later: Test your driver for drugs only.
  • Your driver doesn’t receive a citation on the scene of a bodily injury accident. During the ongoing investigation, law enforcement reviews traffic light cameras, sees your driver run a stop sign, and issues a moving violation 10 hours later: Test your driver for drugs only.

Return-to-Duty and Follow-up

Employers are not required to retain drivers who test positive or who refuse a test. You are required to give them a list of DOT-qualified substance abuse professionals (SAPs) in their area. Before they can return to duty, drivers must meet with an SAP and complete a substance abuse program. You are not obligated to pay for the program. Once back on the job, drivers must participate in follow-up testing as determined by their SAP.

What Else is Required?

Under federal law, employees must implement a DOT drug and alcohol program for employees operating commercial motor vehicles that require a CDL. Your program must include these elements:

  • Policy and procedure development
  • Driver education and supervisor training
  • Urine specimen collection and testing
  • Breath and saliva sample collection and testing
  • Recordkeeping and reporting

Explore More Transportation Compliance Topics

The Texas Association of Pupil Transportation is a great resource for school transportation departments. In addition, anyone can visit the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website for information on implementing a compliant DOT drug and alcohol program. Fund members with Auto coverage can watch this on-demand webinar and learn about other CDL-related mandates, including entry-level driver training, Texas driver certification requirements, and transportation reports required by the Texas Education Agency.

Joanie Arrott
Assistant Director, Risk Solutions

Joanie Arrott joined TASB Risk Management Services in 2009 after serving five years with TASB Facility Services. She leads a team of regionally based consultants who specialize in controlling workplace accidents, property damage, vehicle collisions, and other risks in Texas public schools.