The DOT SAP Program – What to Expect Following a Violation


A SAP (Substance Abuse Professional) program is a component of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) drug and alcohol testing regulations. The DOT requires employers in safety-sensitive industries, such as trucking, aviation, and public transportation, to have comprehensive drug and alcohol testing programs in place to ensure the safety of the workforce and the public.

The qualified DOT SAP program specifically deals with employees who have violated federal drug or alcohol regulations and are required to complete a process of assessment, education, and treatment to return to safety-sensitive duties. Here’s how it works:

  1. Violation: When an employee violates the DOT’s drug and alcohol regulations through a positive drug test result, alcohol test result exceeding the legal limit, refusal to submit to a test, or another violation of the DOT’s drug and alcohol policies, the employer must remove that safety-sensitive employee from duty immediately.
  2. Referral to a qualified DOT SAP: When an employee violates these regulations, they are referred to a DOT qualified Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) for evaluation by their employer or hiring company.
  3. SAP Evaluation: The SAP conducts a comprehensive evaluation and assessment of the employee. The goal is to determine the appropriate course of treatment or education needed to address the employee’s substance abuse issues meeting the mission, which is safety.
  4. Treatment Plan: Based on the assessment, the SAP creates a treatment plan tailored to the individual’s needs. This plan may include education, counseling, rehabilitation, or other interventions.
  5. Compliance: The employee is required to complete the prescribed treatment plan and demonstrate compliance with it.
  6. Return-to-Duty (RTD) Process: Another evaluation by the qualified DOT SAP is put in place to confirm the employee’s readiness. Once the SAP determines that the employee has successfully completed the process, the employer or future employer can send the employee for their observed DOT RTD test.
  7. Follow-Up Testing: After returning to safety-sensitive duties, employees undergo unannounced observed follow-up drug and alcohol testing as part of their continued monitoring. The minimum is six times in 1 year and up to five years.

The DOT SAP program plays a critical role in helping employees with substance abuse issues receive the necessary treatment and support to return to their safety-sensitive jobs safely. It ensures that individuals who have violated drug and alcohol regulations are evaluated by trained professionals and follow a structured process to address their issues before returning to work safely.

It’s important to note that the specifics of the DOT RTD process makes the SAP the gatekeeper for safety.  Each specific DOT agency (e.g., FMCSA for trucking, FAA for aviation, FRA for railroads) has additional regulations to follow. Therefore, individuals and employers in these industries should be familiar with the specific DOT regulations that apply to their sector.

If you have failed a DOT drug test, you will be required to complete the DOT Return-to-Duty process with a qualified DOT Substance Abuse Professional (SAP). ASAP maintains a nationwide network of DOT qualified SAPs who are ready and available for service. For more information about the SAP process or to learn how ASAP can provide you with access to a local SAP, contact 888.792.2727 x 177.



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ASAP has a nationwide reach in all 50 states and U.S. territories. Our trained and knowledgeable team will assist you in understanding the process and signing up. It’s fast and easy to enroll with ASAP! 888.792.2727 x607

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