DOT Return-to-Duty


We help employers and individuals comply with DOT rule 49 CFR Part 40 – Procedures for Transportation Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing Programs, primarily for the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).

Service Location

DOT/SAP services are available in-person only, at our Fort Washington, PA and Mount Laurel, NJ office locations.

DOT Operating Administrations and Covered Employees*

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)
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)
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)
United States Coast Guard (USCG)Employer, marine employer and crew member 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)
*The information in this table 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.

Who Covers the Cost?

In rare 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, the employee is terminated or suspended as a result of a positive drug or alcohol test, or 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 and/or education
  • Monitoring of the treatment/education process
  • A 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 for future employers as needed
  • Reporting the ultimate disposition on the DOT Clearinghouse website.


The DOT/SAP fee is not typically covered by insurance, however, the cost of treatment may be.

Employees who hold safety-sensitive positions, as defined by the Federal Department of Transportation, are subject to federal drug and alcohol use and testing regulations. Should they test positive for drugs or alcohol either in a pre-employment, random, reasonable suspicion, post-accident, return-to-duty or follow-up test, they must be immediately removed from safety-sensitive functions, and may not be returned to work 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 SAP. The DOT requires a SAP to have specific credentials, based on specialized knowledge in content areas related to the treatment of substance use disorders, to complete a comprehensive SAP training and to satisfactorily complete a SAP exam.

Since 2005, Loretta has been a qualified Substance Abuse Professional for the Federal Department of Transportation (DOT/SAP) and can be your first point of contact in navigating the return-to-duty process.

The Return-to-Duty Process

  • Two face-to-face evaluations
  • Treatment and/or education referral and monitoring
  • Return-to-duty and follow-up testing schedule
  • Complete documentation to employer

The DOT return-to-duty process is very precise and can be lengthy. 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 violation, 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.

A Medical Review Officer will contact the employee with notification of a positive test. If the positive result has occurred because the employee is under a doctor’s care and has a legitimate and current prescription for the medication, the test will not been deemed positive. When this circumstance does not exist, and in the case of illicit drugs or alcohol misuse, the MRO will notify the employer of the positive result and will enter the violation on the DOT Clearinghouse at

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 test; OR
  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 DOT/SAP. The employee will be instructed to register on the Clearinghouse, if they have not already done so, and will be directed on that site to choose a DOT/SAP. The SAP must conduct a face-to-face clinical evaluation and make 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 in writing 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 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 anyone who has a violation.) 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 follow-up testing schedule for up to 5 years.

DOT-regulated employers are required to provide trainings for supervisors in the recognition of a troubled employee and the DOT return-to-duty process, and are advised to provide employee orientation sessions on the process.

Call 215.692.2753 for a no-obligation telephone consultation on how Alliance Counseling Services can be of assistance to you and/or your organization.