After a driver receives a failed drug test result, they must begin the return-to-duty process in order to get back on the road, and then continue a follow-up testing process for the next 12+ months.
It is more evident today for employers and drivers to understand this SAP process. In the first two months, the new DOT Clearinghouse has calculated over 11,000 drivers found with a positive drug test result. These employees are now walking through the SAP and return-to-duty process before they can begin safety-sensitive functions.
This process begins with an evaluation of a substance abuse professional, as required in the federal regulations in 49 CFR Part 40 Subpart O.
The Substance Abuse Professional, or “SAP”, according to the DOT, is “a person who evaluates employees who have violated a DOT drug and alcohol program regulation and makes recommendations concerning education, treatment, follow-up testing, and aftercare.”
The SAP makes the important decisions on whether or not an employee is ready to drive a truck, school bus, oil tanker, train, airplane, subway car, or other regulated vehicles and how long the follow-up testing end education program should take.
There are several different ways to evaluate the cost of the SAP process. There is the initial SAP examination fee, the education program, the DOT return-to-duty drug test, and the 6+ follow-up testing program.
Unfortunately, the length of the follow-up testing program can be 12 months to 5 years, depending on the SAPs recommendation. So it is hard to estimate a total cost.
On average, the SAP evaluation process can cost between $400 to $500. Drug tests average between $30 to $60 dollars each. The minimum SAP and follow-up testing program can cost an employer or the driver, depending on the company policy of who pays for the program, to be at least $700 for the first year.
Each SAP program is customized for the person going through it, which can cause a wide range of time when estimating the length of a SAP program. However, this process can be split into two major sections: the time to return-to-duty, and the time to finish the follow-up testing program.
First, there is the SAP evaluation and return-to-duty process so a driver can get back to safety-sensitive functions. This process includes finding a qualified DOT SAP, the SAP evaluation, the SAP talking to a physician if the driver is convinced that a prescription could have caused a false-positive drug test, the length of time to finish an education treatment program, the second SAP evaluation after completing the program, and passing a return-to-duty drug test. This whole process can take weeks to months to finish.
Second, there is the follow-up testing program. According to the regulations, the SAP is required to recommend a minimum of 6 unannounced observed drug tests in the first 12 months after returning to duty. However, the SAP can recommend a program of follow-up drug tests for as long as 5 years. A repeated failed or refused test could require the process to be started all over.
Before an employee can return to duty for safety-sensitive functions, they must complete the return-to-duty process. Once a positive test result is found, the following steps are required:
Once the DER receives the negative result, the employee can begin safety-sensitive functions again.
However, after the second SAP evaluation, a follow-up testing schedule is given to the DER. The follow-up testing schedule is a minimum of 6 unannounced observed drug tests within the first 12 months of returning to safety-sensitive work and can last up to 60 months, or five years, depending on the SAP recommendation.