DOT Virtual SAP Assessments and Delayed Collector Requalification through June 2021

DOT Virtual SAP Assessment

SAPs are allowed, if they voluntarily choose to do so, to conduct a remote “face-to-face” evaluation and assessment while this policy is in effect during the pandemic.

At the beginning of the COVID pandemic, the Department of Transportation (DOT) Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy and Compliance (ODAPC) provided guidance about the impact of the COVID-19 public health emergency on DOT drug and alcohol testing requirements for employers, employees, and service agents (collectors, MROs, SAPs). 

On April 4, 2020, ODAPC provided supplemental information specific to performing remote evaluations by Substance Abuse Professionals (SAP) and the re-qualification timelines for collectors, Medical Review Officers (MRO), Screening Test Technicians (STT) and Breath Alcohol Technicians (BAT), and SAPs.  

As of December 09, 2020, this statement is now effective through June 30, 2021.

Virtual SAP Assessments and Evaluations Allowed During Pandemic

Under federal regulations, the SAP must conduct a face-to-face, or in-person, assessment and evaluation of an employee who has violated DOT drug and alcohol regulations. 

ODAPC recognizes that conducting face-to-face assessments and evaluations during the pandemic may not be possible for certain individuals.

SAPs are allowed, if they voluntarily choose to do so, to conduct a remote “face-to-face” evaluation and assessment while this policy is in effect during the pandemic.

ODAPC recommends that, when a SAP conducts assessments and evaluations remotely, the format of the assessment be documented in the final report for reference.

ODAPC realizes that performing evaluations remotely may not provide as much information to the SAP as a face-to-face evaluation would, but believes remote evaluations are preferable to not performing the evaluations at all. 

SAPs who choose to conduct initial assessments and evaluations and follow up evaluations remotely should consider the following parameters:

  • The technology used should permit a real-time two-way audio and visual communication and interaction between you and the employee.
  • You should determine if the quality of the technology (e.g., speed of the internet connection, clarity of the display, application being used, etc.) is sufficient for you to gather all the visual (e.g., non-verbal physical cues) and audible information you would normally observe in an in-person face-to-face interaction.
  • You may only utilize the technology if your State-issued license authorizes you to do so and within the parameters of that authority.

Delayed Collector and Other Service Agents Requalification Is Allowed

Under federal regulations, collectors, MROs, STT/BATs, and SAPs are required to maintain their DOT required qualifications by completing refresher training courses to continue acting as service agents in the DOT drug and alcohol testing program. 

  • Collectors and STT/BATs must complete refresher training every five years
  • MROs must complete requalification training every five years, and
  • SAPs must complete 12 professional development hours every three years

DOT realizes that during the pandemic, these service agents may find it difficult to find the necessary resources (e.g., exam location or personnel to conduct mock collections, etc.) to meet their re-qualification requirements.

If a service agent is unable to meet their re-qualification due date while this statement of enforcement discretion is in effect, DOT will not consider it a non-compliance for purposes of starting a public interest exclusion proceeding against the service agent. 

DOT will consider these service agents qualified per Part 40 to continue providing the Part 40 required services while this policy is in effect.


DOT Training

All fleets need to conduct proper and thorough pre and post trip inspections, which consists of implementing quality:

  • driver training that is ongoing and consistent
  • driver education, and
  • driver awareness of current and changing traffic laws

All of this will help prevent being targeted by the DOT at roadside inspections and is a valuable resource to ensure a healthy fleet, and compliant safety practices.

Our DOT trainers offer a variety of in-person or online training courses tailored to the specific needs or weaknesses of your company.


Interested in Training?

DOT SAP and Return-to-Duty Process

DOT SAP and Return-to-Duty Process | DOT Compliance | CNS

What is the return-to-duty and follow-up DOT SAP process?

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.

Learn more about:
FMCSA Clearinghouse: What is it, common issues and FAQs

What is a DOT SAP?

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.

How much does a DOT SAP program cost?

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.

How long is the DOT SAP program?

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.

Check out our industry library resources of 15 videos, 2 ebooks, industry links, and CNS In The News content.

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.

What is the DOT return-to-duty process?

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:

  • Immediately remove the employee from safety-sensitive
  • Find a qualified DOT SAP and complete an initial SAP evaluation
  • Finish a SAP recommended education or treatment program
  • When finished, complete a second SAP evaluation
  • If the SAP report is good, complete a return-to-duty observed drug test

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. 


For more information, contact us at 888.260.9448 or info@cnsprotects.com.