What is a SAP?


A substance abuse professional, or SAP is defined by the department of Transportation as a person who evaluates employees who have violated DOT drug and alcohol testing regulations in order to make recommendations for the course of treatment or education, follow-up testing and aftercare.
SAP’s must be a licensed physician, social worker, psychologist, or otherwise licensed and certified therapist or counselor. Their duty is to protect the public interest and ensure that drives who go through the return-to-duty process are fit to return.


If you have failed a random drug test or one that followed an accident that occurred on the job, and your position falls under the guidelines of the U.S. DOT, it is necessary for you to see a (SAP). The SAP is certified, trained and has the knowledge to be in this role. Diversion Center SAPs, in accordance with the guidelines of the DOT, are the professionals who:
Evaluate employees who have violated a DOT drug and alcohol program regulation. Make recommendations about the education, treatment, follow-up testing and aftercare of the individual. Monitor the process. Represent the major decision point—and, in some instances, the only decision point—an employer may have in choosing whether or not to place an employee at the steering wheel of a school bus, at the controls of a plane, at the helm of an oil tanker, at the throttle of a train, in the engineer compartment of a subway car or at the emergency control valves of a natural gas pipeline, according to the DOT.

The ability to say that the employee has—or has not—complied with his recommendations.
The responsibility of the SAP is a far-reaching one, especially because it is crucial to the safety of the many millions of people who use transportation in the country each year. The rules regarding the drug and alcohol testing of safety-sensitive transportation employees are individuals in areas, such as aviation, trucking, railroads, mass transit, pipelines and other transportation industries.


Make a face-to-face clinical assessment and evaluation to determine what assistance is needed by the employee to resolve problems associated with alcohol and/or drug use.​
Refer the employee to an appropriate education and/or treatment program.
Conduct a face-to-face, follow-up evaluation to determine if the employee has actively participated in the education and/or treatment program and has demonstrated successful compliance with the initial assessment and evaluation recommendations.
Provide the Designated Employer Representative with a follow-up drug and/or alcohol testing plan for the employee.
Provide the employee and employer with recommendations for continuing education and/or treatment.


In is important to note that a SAP is not an advocate for the employer or the employee. The role of the SAP is to protect the public interest in safety by professionally evaluating the employee and recommending the appropriate education/treatment, follow-up tests and aftercare.

It is also essential to know that the SAP does not provide counseling to the employee. SAPs do not make a “fitness for duty” determination as part of the re-evaluation (unless required to do so under an applicable DOT agency regulation). The employer (the DOT) decides whether the employee should be placed back to work in a safety-sensitive position. In short, the SAP is the person who verifies if the employee has successfully complied with his initial recommendation.


SAPs are professionally licensed, credentialed and knowledgeable of the DOT guidelines. They meet the following criteria:

  • Clinical experience in the diagnosis of substance abuse-related disorders.​
  • An understanding of how the SAP role relates to the responsibilities employers have for ensuring the safety of the traveling public.
  • Meet all SAP standards and training requirements.
  • Hold qualifications and credentials to fill the role of SAP.
  • Demonstrate the knowledge and understanding of reporting that the employee has or has not complied with the SAP’s recommendation.
  • Regularly attend continuing education activities.
  • A passing score on the examination for the role of SAP.
  • Understand the U.S. DOT’s expanded and revised drug use and alcohol misuse prevention rules for the commercial transportation industries.
  • Possess the background and reasoning of the DOT’s drug and alcohol testing program.
  • Know the DOT’s drug and alcohol testing rules.
  • Knowledge of DOT drug testing requirements, such as laboratory testing and collections.
  • Understand the role of the SAP in the initial employee evaluation, referrals for education and/or treatment, the follow-up evaluation, continuing treatment recommendation and the follow-up testing plan.
  • Knowledge of reporting and record-keeping requirements.


Credentials are mandatory to operate in the role of a SAP. A person must have one of the credentials below in order to be a SAP.


Licensed physician (Doctor of Medicine or Osteopathy).

Social Worker

Licensed or certified social worker.


Licensed or Certified Psychologist.

Licensed Professional

Licensed or certified employee assistance professional.

State-Licensed MFT

State-licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.

Certified Counselor

A drug and alcohol counselor certified by the National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors Certification Commission; or by the International Certification Reciprocity Consortium/Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse; or by the National Board for Certified Counselors, Inc. and Affiliates/Master Addictions Counselor.