DOT/SAP Return-To-Duty

Certain employees in the transportation industry are subject to federal drug and alcohol use and testing regulations, under the federal Department of Transportation (DOT). An employee who violates these regulations must be immediately removed from safety-sensitive functions, and may not be returned to any safety-sensitive functions in the transportation industry until and unless s/he successfully completes a DOT return-to-duty process.

The service agent who is responsible for overseeing this process is a Substance Abuse Professional, or a SAP. DOT requires a SAP to have specific credentials, to have basic knowledge in specified content areas, to complete a comprehensive SAP training and to satisfactorily complete a SAP exam.

Loretta Vasso is certified in Federal Department of Transportation regulations for Return To Duty Process as a DOT/SAP.

DOT’s Operating Administrations that are subject to testing rules and regulations:



DOT’s return-to-duty process is lengthy and involved.  An employee who has been removed from duty because of a violation must successfully complete this process before s/he can be considered for return to work or be hired by a different DOT-regulated employer.

A positive drug or alcohol test is a violation, as is a refusal to be tested.  When an employee has a positive test, refuses to be tested or has one of DOT’s other violations, DOT requires the employer to immediately remove that employee from all safety-sensitive functions. An employer who allows an employee with a violation to continue performing safety-sensitive duties is subject to fines, up to $10,000 per day.

An employee who has a violation has two options:

1)   S/he can be considered for returning to safety-sensitive functions in the transportation industry, but only after successfully completing DOT’s return-to-duty process, and then providing a negative result on a return-to-duty drug and/or alcohol testing
2)   S/he can find another job, outside of the transportation industry.

The return-to-duty process requires that the employee be seen by a qualified and trained Substance Abuse Professional (SAP).  The SAP must conduct a face-to-face clinical evaluation and a recommendation for treatment and/or education for the employee. The SAP must send a report, typically to the employer, specifying the recommendation for treatment and/or education. The SAP must then monitor the employee’s progress in the recommended program of treatment and/or education.

When the SAP determines that the employee has made sufficient progress, the SAP will schedule a Follow-Up evaluation for the employee. Based on that evaluation, the SAP will report to the employer that the employee has successfully complied with their recommendation or that the employee has not complied. If the SAP reports that the employee has successfully complied with the recommendation, the employer will decide whether to arrange for a return-to-duty test for the employee and may return the employee to work. (The employer is not obligated to continue to employ the employee.) If the SAP reports that the employee has not successfully complied with the recommendations, the employer cannot return to the employee to safety-sensitive functions, nor can s/he be employed by any DOT-regulated employer until the SAP’s recommendations have been fully met, and the employee is able to provide a negative return-to-duty test.  Should the employee be reinstated, the SAP is required to provide recommendations for aftercare and a 5-year testing schedule.


Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA)
Drivers, mechanics, management drivers, who need a Commercial Drivers License (CDL) and who drive a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV).  (49 CFR Part 382; Part 391 Subpart E)

Federal Transit Administration (FTA)
Those who provide mass transportation service or which performs safety sensitive function for bus, electric bus, van, automobile, rail car, trolley car, trolley bus or vessel. (49 CFR Part 655)

Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)
Locomotive engineers, trainmen, conductors, switchmen, locomotive hostlers/helpers, utility employees, signalmen, operators and train dispatchers, subject to “Hours of Service Act and “Co-Worker Report Policy”.  (49 CFR Part 19; Part 240)

Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA)
Operators maintenance, emergency-response functions who are performing, ready to perform or immediately available to perform covered functions; owners or operators of pipeline facilities, including persons employed by operators, contractors, engaged by operators and persons employed by such contractors.  (49 CFR Part 199)

United States Coast Guard (USCG)
Employer, marine employer and crewmember on board a vessel who will navigate, steer, direct, manage or sail a vessel, or control, monitor, or maintain the vessel’s main or auxiliary equipment or systems.  (49 CFRPart 16; Part 4)

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
Each person who performs a safety-sensitive function directly or by contract (including by subcontract at any tier.)  Those who perform duties as: flight crewmembers; flight attendant; flight instruction; aircraft dispatcher; aircraft maintenance or preventive maintenance; ground security coordinator; aviation screening; air traffic control.  (14 CFR Part 121)

*This information in this document is meant as a quick reference to the various Modals and is not intended as a comprehensive list of employees covered under Federal regulations.  For complete information refer to Federal Register Part II, Department of Transportation (DOT) 49 CFR Part 40.

In some cases, an employer will bear the cost of Return-to-Duty services for a valued employee. In cases where the positive test is a result of pre-employment and the person is not hired, if the employee is terminated or suspended as a result of a positive drug or alcohol test, or if for any other reason the employee must pay the cost out-of-pocket, the one-time flat fee for services is $465. This amount includes all SAP services including the initial face-to-face evaluation, communication with the Medical Review Officer (MRO) if needed, referral for treatment, monitoring of the treatment process, follow-up face-to-face evaluation, all reports to the company Designated Employee Representative (DER), administrative agency or employee, recommendations for aftercare and testing schedule, maintenance of records and reports to future employers as needed. The DOT/SAP fee is not typically covered by insurance, however, the cost of treatment may be.

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