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  • § 382.103
  • § 382.107
  • § 382.109
    Preemption of State and local laws.
  • § 382.113
    Requirement for notice.
  • § 382.115
    Starting date for testing programs.
  • § 382.121
    Employee admission of alcohol and controlled substances use.
  • § 382.205
    On-duty use.
  • § 382.213
    Controlled substance use.
  • § 382.301
    Pre-employment testing.
  • § 382.303
    Post-accident testing.
  • § 382.305
    Random testing.
  • § 382.307
    Reasonable suspicion testing.
  • § 382.309
    Return-to-duty testing.
  • § 382.401
    Retention of records.
  • § 382.403
    Reporting of results in a management information system.
  • § 382.405
    Access to facilities and records.
  • § 382.413
    Inquiries for alcohol and controlled substances information from previous employers.
  • § 382.501
    Removal from safety-sensitive function.
  • § 382.503
    Required evaluation and testing.
  • § 382.507
  • § 382.601
    Employer obligation to promulgate a policy on the misuse of alcohol and use of controlled substances.
  • § 382.603
    Training for supervisors.
  • § 382.605
    Referral, evaluation, and treatment.

Part 382

Section § 382.605: Referral, evaluation, and treatment.

Below are the available interpretations for the given section. To return to the list of parts, use the Parts link above. The menu to the left provides a full list of sections that have interpretations. To view interpretations for a different section, click on the menu item.

The regulations text of the section can be found on the eCFR website. To view the regulations text, use the link below. For assistance, please send an email to
View regulations for Part 382

Question 1: Must an SAP evaluation be conducted in person or may it be conducted telephonically?

Guidance: Both the initial and follow-up SAP evaluations are clinical processes that must be conducted face-to-face. Body language and appearance offer important physical cues vital to the evaluation process. Tremors, needle marks, dilated pupils, exaggerated movements, yellow eyes, glazed or bloodshot eyes, lack of eye contact, a physical slowdown or hyperactivity, appearance, posture, carriage, and ability to communicate in person are vital components that cannot be determined telephonically. In-person sessions carry with them the added advantage of the SAP's being able to provide immediate attention to individuals who may be a danger to themselves or others.

Question 2: Are employers required to provide intervention and treatment for drivers who have a substance abuse problem or only refer drivers to be evaluated by an SAP?

Guidance: An employer who wants to continue to use or hire a driver who has violated the prohibitions in subpart B in the past must ensure that a driver has complied with any SAP's recommended treatment prior to the driver returning to safety-sensitive functions. However, employers must only refer to an SAP drivers who have tested positive for controlled substances, tested 0.04 or greater alcohol concentration, or have violated other prohibitions in subpart B.

Question 3: Under the DOT rules, must an SAP be certified by the DOT in order to perform SAP functions?

Guidance: The DOT does not certify, license, or approve individual SAPs. The SAP must be able to demonstrate to the employer qualifications necessary to meet the DOT rule requirements. The DOT rules define the SAP to be a licensed physician (medical doctor or doctor of osteopathy), a licensed or certified psychologist, a licensed or certified social worker, or a licensed or certified employee assistance professional. All must have knowledge of and clinical experience in the diagnosis and treatment of substance abuse-related disorders (the degrees and certificates alone do not confer this knowledge).In addition, alcohol and drug abuse counselors certified by the National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors Certification Commission, a national organization that imposes qualification standards for treatment of alcohol-related disorders, are included in the SAP definition.

Question 4: Are employers required to refer a discharged employee to an SAP?

Guidance: The rules require an employer to advise the employee, who engages in conduct prohibited under the DOT rules, of the available resources for evaluation and treatment including the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of SAPs and counseling and treatment programs. In the scenario where the employer discharges the employee, that employer would be considered to be in compliance with the rules if it provided the list to the employee and ensured that SAPs on the list were qualified. This employer has no further obligation (e.g., to facilitate referral to the SAP; ensure that the employee receives an SAP evaluation; pay for the evaluation; or seek to obtain, or maintain the SAP evaluation synopsis).

Question 5: How will the SAP evaluation process differ if the employee is discharged by the employer rather than retained following a rule violation?


After engaging in prohibited conduct and prior to performing safety-sensitive duties in any DOT regulated industry, the employee must receive a SAP evaluation. And, when assistance with a problem is clinically indicated, the employee must receive that assistance and demonstrate successful compliance with the recommendation as evaluated through an SAP follow-up evaluation.

The SAP process has the potential to be more complicated when the employee is not retained by the employer. In such circumstances, the SAP will likely not have a connection with the employer for whom the employee worked nor have immediate access to the exact nature of the rule violation. In addition, the SAP may have to hold the synopsis of evaluation and recommendation for assistance report until asked by the employee to forward that information to a new employer who wishes to return the individual to safety-sensitive duties. In some cases, the SAP may provide the evaluation, referral to a treatment professional, and the follow-up evaluation before the employee has received an offer of employment. This circumstance may require the SAP to hold all reports until asked by the individual to forward them to the new employer. If the new employer has a designated SAP, that SAP may conduct the follow-up evaluation despite the fact that the employee’s SAP has already done so. In other words, a new employer may determine to its own satisfaction (e.g., by having the prospective employee receive a follow-up SAP evaluation utilizing the employer’s designated SAP) that the prospective employee has demonstrated successful compliance with recommended treatment.

Question 6: Do community lectures and self-help groups qualify as education and/or treatment?

Guidance: Self-help groups and community lectures qualify as education but do not qualify as treatment. While self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) are crucial to many employees’ recovery process, these efforts are not considered to be treatment programs in and of themselves. However, they can serve as vital adjuncts in support of treatment program efforts. AA and NA programs require a level of anonymity which makes reporting client progress and prognosis for recovery impossible. If the client provides permission, AA and NA sponsors can provide attendance status reports to the SAP. Therefore, if a client is referred to one of these groups or to community lectures as a result of the SAP evaluation, the employee’s attendance, when it can be independently validated, can satisfy a SAP recommendation for education as well as a gauge for determining successful compliance with a treatment program when both education and treatment are recommended by the SAP’s evaluation.

Question 7: Can an employee who has violated the rules return to safety-sensitive functions prior to receiving an SAP evaluation?

Guidance: The employee is prohibited from performing any DOT regulated safety-sensitive function until being evaluated by the SAP. An employer is prohibited from permitting the employee to engage in safety-sensitive duties until evaluated. If the evaluation reveals that assistance is needed, the employee must receive the assistance, be re-evaluated by the SAP (and determined to have demonstrated successful compliance with the recommendation), and pass a return-to-duty alcohol and/or drug test prior to performing safety-sensitive duties.

Question 8: Can an employer overrule an SAP treatment recommendation?

Guidance: No. If found to need assistance, the employee cannot return to safety-sensitive functions until an SAP's follow-up evaluation determines that the employee has demonstrated successful compliance with the recommended treatment. An employer who returns a worker to safety-sensitive duties when the employee has not complied with the SAP's recommendation is in violation of the DOT rule and is, therefore, subject to a penalty.

Question 9: Is an employer obligated to return an employee to safety-sensitive duty following the SAP's finding during the follow-up evaluation that the employee has demonstrated successful compliance with the treatment recommendation?

Guidance: Demonstrating successful compliance with prescribed treatment and testing negative on the return-to-duty alcohol test and/or drug test, are not guarantees of employment or of return to work in a safety-sensitive position; they are preconditions the employee must meet in order to be considered for hiring or reinstatement to safety-sensitive duties by an employer.

Question 10: Can an employee receive the follow-up from an SAP who did not conduct the initial SAP evaluation?

Guidance: Although it is preferable for the same SAP to conduct both evaluations, this will not be realistic in some situations. For instance, the initial SAP may no longer be in the area, still under contract to the employer, or still hired by the employer to conduct the service. Additionally, the employee may have moved from the area to anew location. In all cases, the employer responsibility is to ensure that both the initial SAP and the follow-up SAP are qualified according to the DOT rules.

Question 11: Who is responsible for reimbursing the SAP for services rendered? Who is responsible for paying for follow-up testing recommended by the SAP?


The DOT rules do not affix responsibility for payment for SAP services upon any single party. The DOT has left discussions regarding payment to employer policies and to labor-management agreements. Therefore, in some instances, this issue has become part of labor-management negotiations.

Some employers have hired or contracted staff for the purpose of providing SAP services. For some employees, especially those who have been released following a violation, payment for SAP services will become their responsibility. In any case, the SAP should be suitable to the employer who chooses to return the employee to safety-sensitive functions. Employer policies should address this payment issue.

Regarding follow-up testing recommended by the SAP, when an employer decides to return the employee to safety-sensitive duty, the employer is essentially determining that the costs associated with hiring and training a new employee exceeds the costs associated with conducting follow-up testing of the returning employee. In any case, whether the employer pays or the employee pays, if the employee returns to performance of safety-sensitive functions, the employer must ensure that follow-up testing occurs as required. The employer will be held accountable if the follow-up testing plan is not followed.

Question 12: Can the SAP direct that an employee be tested for both alcohol and drugs for the return-to-duty test and during the follow-up testing program?

Guidance: If the SAP determines that an employee referred for alcohol misuse also uses drugs, or that an employee referred for drugs use also misuses alcohol, the SAP can require that the individual be tested for both substances. The SAP's decision to test for both can be based upon information gathered during the initial evaluation, the SAP's consultation contacts with the treatment program, and/or the information presented during the follow-up evaluation.

Question 13: Can random testing be substituted for required follow-up testing?

Guidance: Follow-up testing is directly related to a rule violation and subsequent return to safety-sensitive duty. Random tests are independent of rule violations. Therefore, the two test types are to be separated—one cannot be substituted for the other or be conducted in lieu of the other. Follow-up testing should be unpredictable, unannounced, and conducted not less than six times throughout the first 12 months after the employee returns to safety-sensitive functions. Follow-up testing can last up to 60 months. An employee subject to follow-up testing will continue to be subject to an employer’s random testing program.

Question 14: If a company has several employees in follow-up testing, can those employees be placed into a follow-up random testing pool and selected for follow-up testing on a random basis?

Guidance: Follow-up testing is not to be conducted in a random way. An employee’s follow-up testing program is to be individualized and designed to ensure that the employee is tested the appropriate number of times as directed by the SAP. Random testing is neither individualized nor can it ensure that the employee receives the requisite number of tests.

Question 15: What actions are to occur if an employee tests positive while in the follow-up testing program?

Guidance: Employees testing positive while in follow-up testing are subject to the same specific DOT operating administration rules as if they tested positive on the initial test. In addition, the employees are subject to employer policies related to second violations of DOT rules.

Question 16: Can an SAP recommend that six follow-up tests be conducted in less than six months and then be suspended after all six are conducted?

Guidance: Follow-up testing must be conducted a minimum of six times during the first twelve months following the employee’s return to safety-sensitive functions. The intent of this re quirement is that testing be spread throughout the 12 month period and not be grouped into a shorter interval. When the SAP believes that the employee needs to be tested more frequently during the first months after returning to duty, the SAP may recommend more than the minimum six tests or can direct the employer to conduct more of the six tests during the first months rather than toward the latter months of the year.

Question 17: Can you clarify the DOT’s intent with respect to a SAP's determination that an individual needs education?

Guidance: A SAP’s decision that an individual needs an education program constitutes a clinically based determination that the individual requires assistance in resolving problems with alcohol misuse and controlled substances use. Therefore, the SAP is prohibited from referring the individual to her or his own practice for this recommended education unless exempted by DOT rules.

Question 18: In rare circumstances, it is necessary to refer an individual immediately for inpatient substance abuse services. May the SAP provide direct treatment services or refer the individual to services provided by a treatment facility with which he or she is affiliated, or must the inpatient provider refer the individual to another provider?

Guidance: SAPs are prohibited from referring an employee to themselves or to any program with which they are financially connected. SAP referrals to treatment programs must not give the impression of a conflict of interest. How ever, a SAP is not prohibited from referring an employee for assistance through a public agency; the employer or person under contract to provide treatment on behalf of the employer; the sole source of therapeutically appropriate treatment under the employee’s health insurance program; or the sole source of therapeutically appropriate reasonably accessible to the employee.

Question 19: What arrangement for SAP services would be acceptable in geographical areas where no qualified SAP is readily available?

Guidance: The driver must be given the names, addresses, and phone numbers of the nearest SAPs. Because evaluation by a qualified SAP rarely takes more than one diagnostic session, the requirement for an in-person evaluation is not unreasonable, even if it must be conducted some distance from the employee’s home.

Question 20: May an employee who tests positive be retained in a non-driving capacity?

Guidance: Yes. Before an employee returns to performing safety-sensitive functions, the requirements of §382.605 must be met.

Question 21: Are foreign motor carriers required to have an employee assistance program?

Guidance: No. The employee assistance program was an element of the original FHWA drug testing program under 49 CFR part 391, which has been superseded by 49 CFR part 382. All motor carriers under part 382 alcohol and drug testing regulations must refer drivers, who operate in the U.S. and violate the FHWA’s alcohol and drug testing regulations, to a substance abuse professional.

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