Use of medication by CDL operators brings up understandable concerns as to whether or not certain drugs will disqualify a driver from operating a CMV.

In some instances, the answer is straightforward. There are certain drugs (both legal and illegal) that drivers are prohibited from taking. In other instances, it depends on the professional opinion(s) of the prescribing doctor and the DOT medical examiner.

The DOT Drug Testing Panel

Drivers that operate under a DOT drug and alcohol testing program will be have to submit to a pre-employment drug screening, and will be subject randomized testing thereafter. The following substances are included in that screening:

  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamines (Amphetamine, Methamphetamine, MDMA, MDA)
  • Opioids (Codeine, Morphine, Heroin, Hydrocodone, Hydromorphone, Oxycodone, Oxymorphone)
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)

Obviously, a positive test result for any of the substances on this list – or an prescription medication for which the driver does not have a prescription – will disqualify a driver from being able to operate a CMV. While all of the drugs on the opioid panel are considered legal when used under the care of a certified physician, they will still disqualify a driver from being able to operate under DOT regulations. This is because they are known to impair reaction time and focus, two critical components of safe vehicle operation.

Even with a valid prescription, drug tests that reveal substances in a driver’s system will likely be marked “Negative with Safety Concern” by the presiding MRO, who will deter to the employer and prescribing physician concerning the driver’s ability to safely drive a CMV.

Drug Use and the DOT Physical

Drivers are mandated to submit to a DOT physical every two years. During these examinations, a driver will be required to disclose any medications and supplements that they take (even those prescribed by a doctor). Keep in mind that DOT disqualifying drugs list prohibits the use of any narcotic, amphetamine or habit-forming drug by a CMV operator unless the driver has been cleared for duty by a prescribing doctor. The doctor must give a written letter to the medical examiner that gives the driver clearance to drive. Even in this event, the medical examiner can still declare the driver unfit based on their medication consumption. The medical examiner is not obligated to follow the recommendation of the prescribing doctor.

What Drugs are on the List?

According to the DOT, any driver that takes a controlled substance that is included in 21 CFR 1308.11 (391.42(b)(12)), or other habit-forming drug, is medically unqualified to drive. If you do take a medication on this list, you’ll need to get a letter from your doctor that clears you to drive before your next DOT physical.

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