When dealing with the drug and alcohol testing industry within Canada it can be confusing to see testing occurring which is regulated by the United States of America. In this article, we will go over what exactly these American agencies are, what they do, and how they could apply to Canadians and Canadian drug testing programs. 

The biggest difference between drug testing in Canada and drug testing in the United States of America is the level of regulation. In the US there are three main U.S. government agencies that manage different aspects of the drug testing industry:

  • The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)
  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
  • The Department of Transportation (DOT)

Each of these entities has varied responsibilities which they oversee with regard to drug testing within the United States, we will take a quick look at each one, below.

Department of Health and Human Services

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is the United States government’s principal agency for protecting the health of all Americans. It provides essential human services, especially for those who are least able to help themselves.

 The department includes more than 300 programs, covering a wide spectrum of activities. In addition to these services, HHS programs provide equitable treatment for beneficiaries and enable the collection of national health and other data.


The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioural health of the nation.

SAMHSA’s mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.

SAMHSA’s role in DOT drug testing is to establish drug test parameters, determine which drugs will be tested, specify drug test levels, and certify laboratories performing drug tests.

Department of Transportation

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) oversees a number of different Federal administrations and has developed drug and alcohol testing rules for specific agencies. These rules are found under Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 40.

The DOT has various administrations which work under their umbrella, however, only six of those have been issued regulations requiring workplace drug testing:

DOT Operating Administrations with Workplace Drug Program Requirements

  • FAA    Federal Aviation Administration
  • FMCSA    Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
  • FRA    Federal Railroad Administration
  • FTA    Federal Transit Administration
  • PHMSA    Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration
  • USCG      United States Coast Guard

Canadians Under the DOT

In Canada, the DOT regulations will apply to those employees who will be working in the U.S. This means that Canadian employees whose work will take them into the US must comply with any and all DOT regulations, and specifically those under whichever agency they work. This applies to all of the requirements as set out by the CFR, meaning a Canadian driver who goes into the US must be tested within DOT protocols and to their standards. DOT regulations will require them to do a pre-employment urine drug test and they could be required to be entered into a pool for random testing, depending on their job and overseeing agency.

The DOT also has very specific requirements for how a drug test is to be reviewed by the MRO. You can be sure your MRO has this knowledge and will be following the correct DOT procedures if they have been certified by one of the Medical Review Officer governing bodies, such as MROCC (Medical Review Officer Certification Council) or AAMRO (American Association of Medical Review Officers).