Ensuring that safety-sensitive employees are drug-free is an essential component of Department of Transportation (DOT) compliance. Motor carriers must test their drivers for drug use at specific times. These include before employment as well as randomly for as long as they hold their position. The standard screening method for DOT-regulated companies is a 5-panel drug test. Although motor carriers may choose to conduct additional testing, this is the minimum for compliance.
How Does a 5-Panel Drug Test Work?
A 5-panel drug test checks for the presence of drug metabolites in an individual’s urine. Metabolites are chemicals that the human body creates while processing a specific drug. The first step to obtain test results is known as an immunoassay. A technician uses test strips with antibodies embedded in them to rapidly detect drug metabolites in the urine sample. If metabolites are present, the lab will then conduct a more sensitive gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) test. This can confirm or deny the positive result. After this, the Medical Review Officer (MRO) will contact the individual to determine if there is a medically acceptable explanation.
What Substances Does a 5-Panel Drug Test Include?
A standard DOT 5-panel urine drug test screens for the following substances:
Amphetamines are a type of stimulant. Some forms may be prescribed legally for conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). A DOT drug test detects the presence of amphetamine metabolites for up to four days after use. This includes amphetamine, methamphetamine, 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), and methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA).
Cocaine is another stimulant drug that trucking companies must screen for. A 5-panel drug test specifically checks for the presence of the metabolite benzoylecgonine, which can be present in urine for up to four days after use.
Opiates are painkillers derived from poppy resin and opioids are semi-synthetic forms of these drugs. At the start of 2018, the DOT expanded the number of drugs included in this panel, which screens for codeine, morphine, heroin, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxycodone, and oxymorphone. A urine test can detect opiate metabolites for up to four days after use.
Phencyclidine (PCP), also called “angel dust,” is a dissociative drug that can produce hallucinations and a disconnect with reality. Metabolites can be detected in urine for up to 14 days after use.
Marijuana refers to dried leaves and buds of the Cannabis sativa plant. Specifically, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Motor carriers should be aware that the DOT strictly prohibits marijuana use even in states where recreational and/or medical use is legal. A 5-panel test screens for the presence of THC metabolites. Since these are fat-soluble, they can remain in urine for a longer period of time, up to 30 days in the case of heavy use.
Additional Drug Testing
Urine testing detects drug use within a relatively short time frame. Companies who want additional verification that employees are drug-free may choose to use hair testing. However, motor carriers who hair test must also complete the standard 5-panel urine test, as this is the only type of drug testing that is recognized by the DOT.
Drug Testing Services
HDS Safety Services can help you stay compliant with DOT regulations and ensure that your motor carrier is drug-free.