The Department of Transportation is in charge of the regulation of millions of vehicle operators. This includes nearly 2 million heavy-duty truck drivers, 878,000 light-duty truck drivers, and 507,000 school bus drivers.
One way that the DOT ensures public safety is through DOT drug and alcohol testing. If a driver fails their DOT drug or alcohol test at any point, they are taken off of their driving duties.
How can drivers get back to driving after failing a DOT drug or alcohol test? They must complete and pass their SAP program.
Read on to learn more about what an SAP program is and how you can complete it.
What Is an SAP?
SAP stands for “Substance Abuse Professional.” Only a DOT-approved SAP can help you begin your return to work process. Consider your SAP an intermediary between your employer and any drug or alcohol programs you’ll need to attend to get back in good standing at work.
SAP’s range from licensed physicians to social workers to drug and alcohol counselors. Their job is to evaluate your needs and ensure that our US transportation systems are safe both for you as a driver and for the public.
Let’s take a look at how you’ll interact with your SAP and what the SAP program entails.
Step 1: Your SAP Evaluation
To begin, you will need to find an SAP evaluation center near you. You are required to meet with your SAP in person in order for them to perform an accurate evaluation. This evaluation consists of two parts.
The first is a written questionnaire. These questions cover topics such as family substance use history, personal substance use history, and any other relevant factors.
The second is a face-to-face interview. During this time, your SAP will determine how severe your substance abuse issues are and the best course of action to take. They will come up with a plan based on your needs, any safety concerns, and your financial situation.
Step 2: Completing Your SAP Program
Your SAP program will likely be comprised of both education courses and drug or alcohol counseling. In some cases, DOT employees may need to go through substance abuse treatment and detox. The aim of these programs is to help rehabilitate you and ensure that you are trustworthy behind the wheel.
Your SAP program will generally require you to complete a certain number of hours of education. The amount of time you’ll have to spend in counseling or treatment will vary based on the severity of your situation and the type of treatment recommended.
Step 3: Follow-Up SAP Evaluation and Paperwork
Once you have completed your SAP program, it is time to revisit your SAP for a follow-up evaluation. You will need to verify that you have completed the recommended education courses and treatment programs.
If your SAP determines that the SAP program was a success, they will complete a series of paperwork for you to bring to your employer. They must document your initial evaluation and their own recommendations as well as your completion of the courses and programs. They will also need to provide documentation of your follow-up testing requirements.
If your SAP determines that you were not compliant or the program was unsuccessful, you will have to go through the first three steps again. If you want to return to work quickly, it is imperative that you follow your SAP program guidelines.
Step 4: Returning to Work
Once your SAP provides you with your return-to-duty documents, you must bring them to your employer.
Your employer then has the right to order a return-to-duty DOT drug or alcohol test. If the test comes back positive, you will receive a new violation that requires further SAP intervention. Remember that drugs like marijuana can stay in your system for anywhere between 3 and 30 days after your last use.
If it is negative, your employer can decide whether or not they want to put you back on safety-sensitive duties. Remember that even if they do, your SAP program isn’t quite complete.
Your SAP return-to-duty documents may include recommended treatment such as continued drug or alcohol counseling. If this is the case, you will need to follow through and provide documentation of your participation.
If your first offense was not severe, you might not have to have continued treatment. However, all DOT employees have to undergo random DOT drug or alcohol testing. If you have received a positive test in the past, this random testing will go up for the next one to five years.
Random DOT Drug and Alcohol Testing
After failing a DOT drug and alcohol test and returning to work, you are subject to a minimum of six random DOT drug or alcohol tests over the next year. These six tests are in addition to any standard DOT testing your employer already performs.
Remember that your SAP can recommend more than six tests. In some cases, it may be more than six tests per year. In others, it may be a continuation of frequent testing after that first year is up.
Your SAP Is Here to Help
When you are asked to complete an SAP program, remember that your SAP is here to help. Not only do they want to ensure the safety of everyone on the road, but they want to help you get back to work.
The Diversion Center offers SAP evaluations and programs in the Atlanta metro area. You can find locations in Duluth, Fayetteville, and more. Find the location nearest you to schedule your evaluation and get your SAP program started.