SAP Testing

What Is SAP Testing?

Most employers enforce rules regarding drug and alcohol use in the workplace. But certain establishments must hold stricter policies, such as when the general public’s safety is at stake. To ensure the road is as safe as possible, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) implements stringent rules regarding drug and alcohol use for its employees—whether they be bus drivers, truckers, individuals in the pipeline industry, and those alike. A key part of this policy’s success is that qualified individuals assess the aforementioned employees when necessary, to ensure their cooperation and abidance of the rules. These qualified individuals are called Substance Abuse Professionals (SAPs).

SAPs are vital to the safety of our roadways—these individuals are in charge of evaluating USDOT employees and making recommendations for those who fail to comply with the drug and alcohol policy. Their job involves conducting follow-up testing, sending employees to educational programs, and designing plans for aftercare. Furthermore, according to the USDOT, SAP’s “represent the major decision point (and in some cases the only decision point) an employer may have in choosing whether or not to place an employee behind the steering wheel of a school bus, in the cockpit of a plane, at the helm of an oil tanker, at the throttle of a train, in the engineer compartment of a subway car, or at the emergency control valves of a natural gas pipeline.”

What Do SAPs Do?

As previously mentioned, it is an SAP’s job to assess a DOT employee and provide their employer with meaningful feedback: Are they in compliance with DOT’s policies? Do they need treatment? Should they complete further testing? SAPs do not, however, make employment decisions; they instead provide employers with the important information needed to make said decisions, and they recommend drug and alcohol treatment plans. According to USDOT regulations, SAPs are in charge of taking the following measures:

  • Analyzing the employee and determining what assistance is needed
  • Referring the employee to treatment programs
  • Recommending education courses or aftercare regimens
  • Keeping in touch with the employee to ensure their progress in the treatment process
  • Following up with the employee for reassessment once treatment has been completed
  • Offering changes and adjustments to the employee’s intervention
  • Designate an employer representative to check in with the employee and ensure they’re abiding by the alcohol and/or drug treatment plan.

Who Qualifies As a SAP?

An SAP’s function, according to USDOT, is “to protect the public interest in safety by professionally evaluating the employee and recommending appropriate education and/or treatment, follow-up tests, and aftercare.” This is an important job to fulfill, which can’t be completed by just anybody. The following professionals qualify to conduct SAP testing:

  • Licensed or certified employee assistance professional
  • Licensed physician (doctor of medicine or osteopathy)
  • State-licensed marriage and family therapist
  • Licensed or certified psychologist
  • Licensed or certified social worker
  • Certified drug and alcohol counselor

The Development of SAP Testing

In 1991, a congregational act was passed, which outlined the need to hold USDOT employees to higher standards when it came to drug and alcohol use: “After several significant transportation accidents, congress passed the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act of 1991 because it recognized the safety need for ensuring drug-and-alcohol-free transportation employees.” This act requires DOT agencies to administer drug testing to employees in the following industries: railroad, pipelines, mass transit, aviation, and trucking (which includes van, limousine, and school bus drivers). Three years later, the DOT added alcohol testing as a requirement as well. Some commonly abused drugs, which may be tested for, include:

  • Cocaine
  • Alcohol
  • Steroids
  • Marijuana
  • Hallucinogens
  • Methamphetamine
  • Opioids
  • Inhalants
  • Prescription drugs and cold medicines

Understanding Substance Abuse

Substance abuse is a leading health problem in today’s world, whereas individuals abuse a given drug (such as those listed above) and experience troubling consequences because of it—one being the loss of their job. If an SAP finds that an individual has violated the strict policies set forth by the USDOT, they might have a serious problem on their hands. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), the following signify a substance use problem:

  • Taking a substance for longer (or in larger amounts) than one originally intended
  • Spending ample time on obtaining and using the abused substance
  • Failing to cut back on or stop using the controlled substance when desired
  • Having ongoing cravings or urges to use the harmful substance
  • Failing to keep up with your responsibilities at work or school due to the substance
  • Continuing to use the substance, even despite its negative effects on one’s relationships
  • Missing out on important events, as influenced by the substance use
  • Continuing use of the substance even after acknowledging it as dangerous
  • Using the substance, knowing it could worsen other physical or psychological issues
  • Experiencing an increase in tolerance and need for larger quantities of the substance

An individual that demonstrates two or three of the above meets criteria for mild substance abuse disorder. Four or five of the above, however, indicate moderate substance use, while six or more of the above meet criteria for a severe case of substance abuse.

If an individual’s job sector falls under DOT and they still choose to use a given substance illegally or dangerously, then that is a cause for concern. This does not guarantee that they have substance use disorder, but it does fulfill at least one criteria listed above: failing to keep up with one’s responsibilities at work due to the substance. Upon further evaluation and follow-up, a SAP can determine whether the issue has since resolved and if an employee is able to return to work.

Meet with an SAP Today

If you’re in need of a USDOT SAP, look no further—Thriveworks is here to provide that service to employers and employees alike. Make an appointment with us today by contacting us through our website or giving us a call at 1-855-4-THRIVE. We are available by telephone Monday-Friday from 8:00 am to 5:30 pm. We also have a live attendant to respond to any questions or requests you may have 24 hours a day. In addition, you may jump straight to SAP testing in your area through the links below:

Bristol SAP Testing:
Richmond SAP Testing:
Atlanta SAP Testing:
Westborough SAP Testing:
Lynchburg SAP Testing:
Cambridge SAP Testing:
Philadelphia SAP Testing:
Chesterfield SAP Testing:

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