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The SAP Process

DOT Regulations

The Department of Transportation (DOT) plays a critical role in ensuring the safety of all safety-sensitive employees within the transportation industry. These regulations encompass six distinct federal administrations:

  1. Federal Aviation Administration

  2. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)

  3. Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)

  4. Federal Transit Administration (FTA)

  5. Federal Pipeline & Hazardous Material Administration (PHMSA)

  6. United States Coast Guard (USCG)


If you're uncertain whether you fall under DOT regulations, you can click here to answer a few questions.

Truck Driving by Lake

DOT Regulations 

DOT Regulations

The Federal DOT Drug and Alcohol Testing Regulations (49 CFR Part 40) covers:


1. How drug and alcohol testing is conducted

2. Who is authorized to participate in the drug and alcohol testing program

3. What employee's must do before they return-to-duty following a drug and/or alcohol violation


As an employee, when you have violated DOT drug and alcohol regulations, you cannot again perform any DOT safety-sensitive duties for any employer until, and unless, you complete the SAP evaluation.

1. Initial Evaluation

  • The SAP Process begins with an initial evaluation. During this phase, you will meet with a qualified Substance Abuse Professional (SAP).

  • The SAP evaluation is a comprehensive biopsychosocial-spiritual-emotional assessment that covers substance abuse, addictive behaviors, and co-occurring mental health disorders to determine what types of education/treatment/recovery support you will require. 

  • Depending on the nature of the positive drug and alcohol test or refusal to test, you may be asked to provide the SAP with permission to contact your medical providers, family members, or other relevant individuals.

  • This comprehensive assessment is designed to gain a complete understanding of your history and potential issues related to alcohol misuse or drug use. It helps us tailor our recommendations to your unique needs.

2. Treatment/

  • Once you have completed the Initial SAP Evaluation, the SAP will recommend which treatment/education/recovery support services will be appropriate in achieving drug-fee recovery. Per DOT, the employee, employer or treatment/education/recovery support providers may not influence or change the SAP's treatment plan. You must complete the treatment/education/recovery support recommendations made by the SAP before coming back to the SAP for the SAP's evaluation and clearance for you to submit for a return-to-duty testing. 

  • The level of care recommendation and referral is an integral part of the return-to-duty process and is vital for the treatment of the employee who is ultimately working to be returned to a safety-sensitive position.

  • The SAP is responsible for gathering as much information as possible during the evaluation and make recommendations based on objective data and clinical history. While not explicitly stipulated in the regulations, the SAP employs objective criteria to guide level-of-care suggestions, ensuring that personal biases do not influence the decision-making process.

3. Follow-Up Evaluation

  • Following the recommended treatment/education/recovery support services, you will have a follow-up evaluation.

  • During this evaluation, the SAP will assess your compliance with their recommendations and the progress you've made toward recovery.

  • If you have been compliant and have demonstrated your commitment to safety and drug-free recovery, the SAP will notify the DER and/or C/TPA that you are now eligible to take a Return-to-Duty test.

4. Follow-Up Testing Plan

  • The SAP must establish a written follow-up testing plan. This plan is sent directly to the DER and/or C/TPA. 

  • The SAP is the sole determiner of the number and frequency of follow-up tests and whether these tests will be for drugs, alcohol, or both, unless directed by the appropriate DOT agency regulation. 

  • As outlined by DOT regulations, the SAP must recommend a minimum of six unannounced observed follow-up tests within the first 12 months after the employee returns to a safety-sensitive position. The SAP may require the employee to undergo up to 48 months of additional testing following the initial 12-month period. The DOT empowers the SAP to recommend up to 60 months for follow-up testing, but they may not exceed this time period. 

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