Frequently Asked SAP Questions

    Scroll Down Page for Answers to the Following Questions:

          What Must I do to Return-to-Duty?
          What is a SAP?
          What does a SAP do?
          How Soon Before I Can Return to Work?
          Can Any Drug & Alcohol Counselor Evaluate Me?
          Must I see a SAP if I Take a Non-DOT Job?
          Will My Employer Take Me Back if I Complete the SAP Process?
          Things to Consider When Searching for a SAP.
          Things to Consider When Looking for your Next Job.


What Must I do to Return-to-Duty?
Before you can be considered for a return to safety-sensitive duties you must successfully complete the Department of Transportation (DOT) return-to-duty process, which requires involvement of a qualified Substance Abuse Professional (SAP).  You will then be required to provide a negative result on a return-to-duty drug and/or alcohol test.

What is a SAP?
A SAP is a Substance Abuse Professional that, per DOT prerequisites, has specific credentials, meets qualification-training requirements including continuing education activities and demonstrates a basic knowledge and understanding of the DOT regulations that must be followed before an employee with a DOT violation can be considered for return to safety-sensitive functions in the transportation industry. 

The SAP is not an advocate for the employer or employee.  A SAP's primary concern is to ensure public safety in the event the employee returns to his/her safety-sensitive position.

What does a SAP do?
Per DOT regulations, the SAP must:

  • Conduct a face-to-face initial employee evaluation and clinical assessment to determine the level of assistance needed to resolve the alcohol and/or drug associated problems.

  • Recommend and refer the employee to an appropriate education and/or treatment program.

  • Monitor the employee's progress in the education and/or treatment process through contact with the respective provider(s).

  • Conduct a face-to-face follow-up evaluation to determine if the employee has fully and successfully complied with the initial evaluation and recommended course of education and/or treatment.

  • Provide the Designated Employer Representative (DER) a follow-up evaluation with a drug and/or alcohol-testing plan for the employee for up to five years.

  • Provide the employer and employee with recommendations for continuing education and/or treatment.

How Soon Before I Can Return to Work?
The SAP's education and/or treatment program will be dependent on your specific needs, which includes the severity of your drug or alcohol problem, your willingness to change this pattern, and your motivation to return to work.

The level of care and subsequent amount of time needed to resolve your problem will be dependent upon your evaluation and, at a minimum, the SAP's recommendation must include one or more of the following:

Education - May include, but is not limited to self-help groups (e.g. Alcoholics Anonymous) and community lectures (e.g. one-day drug and alcohol education class).

Treatment - May include, but is not limited to inpatient hospitalization, partial inpatient treatment, out-patient counseling programs and aftercare.
Can Any Drug & Alcohol Counselor Evaluate Me?
No.  Only a DOT SAP may evaluate you in order to meet Federal regulations and requirements.  If a non-qualified counselor evaluates you then your return to work will be delayed.

Must I see a SAP if I Take a Non-DOT Job?
No.  You do not need to go through the SAP process if you seek work from a non-DOT employer.  But, if you decide to return to a safety-sensitive position in the transportation industry you must keep in mind that future potential DOT employers must obtain your drug and alcohol testing records from your previous employers from the previous two years.  If you have not successfully completed the SAP process, the potential employer cannot hire you until you do so.

Will My Employer Take Me Back if I Complete the SAP Process?
Your employer is not required to rehire you because you have met the required conditions.  This decision actually depends on your employer's written policy or other requirements.

Things to Consider When Searching for a SAP:
Entering into the SAP process is a serious and lengthy commitment on your part.  But, if you wish to remain in a safety-sensitive job within any DOT regulated position, it is a necessary one.  It is therefore important to remember:

  • Your choice of a SAP is final.  Once you start the return-to-duty process with a SAP there is no turning back!  You cannot get a second opinion or re-start the process with another SAP.

  • A SAP's decision is final which means you/your employer must accept their treatment and/or education recommendation.  If your health insurance or employer does not cover the recommended plan and you can't pay out-of-pocket then your only option is to seek employment outside the transportation industry.

  • The time that has passed since your DOT violation, changes in your life, prior treatment, or 'unique' reasons why you tested positive, will not modify the SAP process.

  • No matter how remote your residence is, or the distance to the SAP's office, the return-to-duty process cannot be reduced, an alternate counseling program cannot be used, and evaluations can never be done by telephone.

Things to Consider When Looking for your Next Job:
  1.  The single most important rule to keep in mind when applying for any US DOT safety sensitive position is that you MUST disclose past DOT test failure(s).  While all employers are required to ask about  current and past drug use on their job application, US DOT does not say how this question it is to be worded.  Consequently, some employers ask questions that are vague and do not communicate their  intent to elicit this information. 

       A strong note of caution: the employer will likely run a motor vehicle record check in order to verify the information you provide on your job application.  If the withheld information is uncovered during the pre-employment check then you are unlikely to get the job.  If you have already started with the  company then this can be grounds for job termination—a fact that your ex-boss would then pass on to future employers. 

       Once hired and an undisclosed violation is discovered as part of a US DOT audit then US DOT can find  that your employer failed to conduct a thorough background records check on you and levy a substantial  fine against the company.  In addition, if it is determined that you withheld this information in a manner that prevented your employer from easily uncovering the violation then US DOT could fine you. 

   2.  Be aware that you may now have a more difficult search when looking for a job.  Reason?  Ever  company has a different policy when it comes to violations.  Some employers may have a policy not to  hire anyone with a US DOT violation on their record.  Or, the company policy is to not hire anyone with  a US DOT violation within the past 1,2, 3, 4 or 5 years.  These employment policies are perfectly legal. 

   3.  If it means getting employed, you may need to take a pay cut and/or be willing to commute a greater distance.  This may be difficult for you to accept especially if you are providing the same services for a lower pay. While you know your worth, the only thing that will heal this wound is time.  Employment opportunities  typically become more plentiful after you have completed your aftercare, follow-up drug testing and   have one, two or three years of commercial driving after your violation.

                                                                                 For information or an appointment call or email me:

                                                                                                        Phone: 888-636-8661


Dr. Rick Williams, LCSW, LCAC, SAE, SAP

DOT Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) Services