dot return to duty process

Because DOT drivers and operators have such serious responsibilities, they are subject to drug and alcohol testing. This helps the DOT to ensure the safety of all passengers aboard public transportation.  In this blog, I want to share with you what the DOT return to duty process entails.

Unfortunately, there’s still quite a bit of work to do. Since January of 2020, over 8,000 DOT drug or alcohol tests came back positive. After a positive test, what happens next?

After testing positive, you must follow a strict DOT return to duty process. This is a non-invasive process that helps drivers and operators to safely return to work without posing a risk to themselves or others.

What exactly does that process entail? Read on to find out.

Step 1: Receive a SAP Evaluation

In order to begin your DOT return to duty process, you must receive a SAP evaluation. SAP stands for “substance abuse professional,” and in this case, you must work with one that is DOT-approved. 

During your SAP evaluation, you will receive recommendations on the steps you must complete before returning to work. This will include education, treatment, or a combination of the two. Your substance abuse treatment planning will depend on the type and level of your substance abuse.

Step 2: Fulfill Education or Treatment Requirements

One benefit of working with an SAP is that they are familiar with classes, counselors, and other resources in the area that will help you get back on track. They will also have access to information about your financial resources and coverage, meaning that you won’t have to enter programs you can’t afford.

The SAP will then provide any necessary referrals as well as their own diagnostic determinations. You will then complete any recommended education or treatment programs which may include an in-patient or out-patient rehab option. 

Step 3: Receive a Follow-Up SAP Evaluation

After you’ve completed step 2 of the DOT return to duty process, you will meet with your SAP once more. During a face-to-face meeting, they will determine the success of your education or treatment. This can result in three outcomes.

The first is that they will deem the treatment a success and you can go back to work right away. The second is that they will deem the treatment successful enough for you to return to work, but more classes or follow-up treatments will be necessary. The third is that they will deem the treatment unsuccessful and you will have to continue treatment without yet returning to work.

If you fall into the third category, you will repeat steps 2 and 3 until your SAP believes that you are ready to return to work.

Step 4: Receive a SAP Report

After this follow-up meeting, your SAP will provide both you and your supervisor with your full SAP report. This includes actions taken as well as actions that must be taken in the future. 

Note that this SAP report will include both classes and treatments that are recommended for the future and any necessary DOT drug or alcohol tests.

After completing the DOT return to work process, you are subject to a minimum of 6 unannounced follow-up DOT drug or alcohol tests over the next 12 months. In some cases, your SAP may recommend that these follow-up DOT drug and alcohol tests continue for the next five years. 

Step 5: Take a DOT Drug or Alcohol Test

Once your supervisor has received your SAP report, you are subject to an immediate DOT return to work drug or alcohol test. This test must be taken under direct observation of a certified DOT test administrator. This may be done in a lab or at a mobile DOT drug and alcohol testing facility.

In order to return to any safety-sensitive duties such as driving, the test must come back negative. 

Step 6: Comply with Continued Monitoring

Once you are given clearance to return to safety-sensitive duties, you may continue to be subject to monitoring. This is in part because the risk of repeat incidents is too high to ignore. For example, one study found that 30% of drunk drivers who were caught and punished go on to drive while drunk again. 

With the exception of any continued classes or treatment, this continued monitoring will be conducted at random. In other words, you will not be given a warning before you are asked to complete any follow-up DOT drug or alcohol tests. This ensures more honest and accurate results.

Note that any DOT drug or alcohol tests you will have to take are not limited to the ones recommended by your SAP. Your department may conduct other random or post-accident DOT drug or alcohol tests. These may not take the place of the follow-up tests your SAP has prescribed.

This continued monitoring is required regardless of any changes in your position. For example, if you stay with the DOT but move to another region or department, your follow-up tests will continue. Your new supervisor will simply pick up where your previous supervisor left off.

Begin Your DOT Return to Duty Process Today

If you’ve tested positive in a DOT drug or alcohol test, you’ve been immediately removed from your safety-sensitive duties. How can you return to work quickly and without hassle?

Set up your SAP evaluation in order to begin your DOT return to duty process. The Diversion Center provides same-day SAP evaluations to get you back on track as soon as possible.

We have several Georgia locations, with a center in Duluth, FayetvilleJonesboro, Lawrenceville, and Marietta. To schedule your substance abuse appointment, select the location nearest you and provide us with your name, phone number, and email. We’ll be in touch right away!