SAP’s are required by the U.S. DOT to recommend a course action for each individual they assess. 

These recommendations are based on the information gathered in the assessment process and based on the needs of the unique individual being assessed. These recommendations are education, counselling, and/or treatment.

To be clear: US DOT regulation requires the SAP to make a recommendation for every individual who has violated a DOT drug and alcohol regulation.  There are no exceptions.

The recommendation, to the greatest extent possible, must protect public safety in the event the employee returns to the performance of safety-sensitive functions.

Eligibility for Return to Duty Testing

To become eligible for return to duty testing the employee must demonstrate successful compliance with the recommendation to the SAP. 

Once the SAP has determined the driver is ready, the SAP notifies the DER and Clearinghouse the drive is eligible for return to duty alcohol/drug testing.  Next, the SAP develops the follow-up test plan for the driver.  This plan is provided to the DER.

Suppose the SAP fails to make the required recommendation for education and/or treatment?

In this situation the US DOT has provided clear direction:

The employer should not administer an RTD test under these circumstances, nor should the employer allow the employee to provide safety sensitive duty.

The employer should refer the employee back to the SAP with direction to prescribe education and/or treatment and conduct a re-evaluation of the employee to determine whether the employee has successfully complied with the SAP’s instructions.

What if the employer has conducted the RTD test and returned the employee to safety-sensitive duties (i.e., only realizes a mistake has been made some time after the fact)?

In this situation the US DOT has also provided clear instruction. The employer should work with the SAP to “go back and do it right”.  This means:

The employee must be removed from performance of safety-sensitive functions.

The employee must be referred back to the SAP for an education and/or treatment recommendations, and

When the recommendations are completed, the employee is re-evaluated by the SAP for successful compliance.

Return to Duty Testing

In both cases, following receipt of a successful compliance report from the SAP, the employer would conduct another RTD test before returning the employee to safety-sensitive functions.

For further information, please refer to:

https://www.transportation.gov/odapc/part40/40-293a

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