Congratulations on finishing your assessment! You deserve a break so take it and enjoy the accomplishment.... but don't get too comfortable. Resolving a DOT violation is a bit of a marathon since employers (current and future) must keep track of your follow-up for a minimum of 5 years after you return to duty. There are plenty of things that could go wrong during this five-year period. However, if you spend just a few minutes to stay educated and on top of things you can avoid a lot of time-consuming, frustrating, and potentially very expensive mistakes. We strongly encourage you to browse the topics below to head off potential problems before they happen.

  • I’m done with my SAP Assessment, what comes next?

    Here are the most important things to know from our point of view, having helped 1000s of DOT employees and CDL holders work through this process.

    1) Establish a relationship with a potential employer if you do not already have one. If the company where you had the violation is going to employ you after your SAP assessment and compliance, congratulations! That is a huge step. If not, you will be unable to complete or move past step 5 until you have an employer who is ready to send you for a return to duty/ pre-employment drug and or alcohol test. We will talk further on another page or blog about how to find potential employers.

    2) Once the potential employer sends you to the testing center they use, you can go to the return to duty test (which also is technically a pre-employment test even if you have continued to be employed by the same company in a non-safety sensitive position. If your violation was for THC, be careful! Don’t forget that THC can stay in your body and be present in a urine test for an extended period of time – many will tell you even well beyond 30 days. You can test yourself at home using a drug store test on 3 or more occasions with a day in between the tests. If you can establish 3 clean at-home drug tests this way most lab technicians will tell you that your test should be negative.

    Also, understand that the only person who can send you for this return to duty test is the employer. Not the SAP, not your doctor, and not yourself. This is a federal DOT test and must follow protocol to be a legitimate return to duty test.

    3) After your test it is a good idea to call the company testing administrator or human resource office and let them know that you did your test and ask them about how long it usually takes to hear back from the employer about next steps.
    For CDL Holders: Once you can produce the negative test for the employer, it is the employer’s responsibility to place your negative test result on the Clearinghouse.No one else can post your test results…. Not the SAP, not the motor vehicle bureau, not the testing center…only the potential employer! You can check the Clearinghouse to see if your results have been posted but if aren’t seeing results posted within 24-48 hours of your test, keep good communication open with the potential employer. Some employees call employers too frequently in this situation (avoid incessant calling) while others wait too long to reach out. Ask the employer what is a good length of time to wait before calling back if you don’t see Step 5 cleared on the clearinghouse.

    4) Last but not least, document everything during this five year period.

  • I have a CDL, I’m done with my SAP Assessment but the Clearinghouse says I am ineligible to operate a CMV. Help!

    Once your SAP assessment is completed, your SAP will mark Step 4 on the Clearinghouse as finished so you can move to Step 5. You will remain ineligible to operate a commercial motor vehicle until you have been sent by a prospective employer (or your current employer) for a DOT pre-employment/return to duty alcohol and/or drug test. If you haven’t taken that test yet you will not be eligible to drive even though the SAP marked you as completed with your SAP assessment. Completing step 4 does make you eligible to take a return to duty test. Some individuals think that at this point they should simply go to a testing center to take a test. This approach won’t work because the only tests recognized on the Clearinghouse are return-to-duty tests ordered by an employer and then posted by the employer once the test results come back from the lab as negative. So while there usually is a short period of a day or two between completing your SAP assessment and being able to drive there are several things that could cause a delay in your eligibility to drive or completion of Step 5. Those are as follows:

    1) you do not yet have an employer who is ordering your drug test and telling you what location to go to for your test;

    2) you took the test but the results have not come back yet;

    3) you took the test but the results were positive, in which case you will need to go through the SAP assessment process again from the beginning;

    4) you took the test and it seems like enough time has passed to get your results back but the medical review officer or the employer have not posted those results to your Clearinghouse dashboard. This is the one we see most often and there could be many reasons for this ranging from complications with your test or bungled handling of your test results or a simple failure to understand the need to post the results on the Clearinghouse. If you don’t understand what is taking so much time you should contact your employer first and then the medical review officer who reviewed your test. Your SAP will not know why there is a delay because the SAP is never provided with the results of your follow-up drug testing. This is because their role in your SAP case and return to duty is final once Step 4 is completed, with the exception that they should provide your SAP assessment compliance paperwork to all future prospective employers when requested.

  • Where do I go for my next drug test?

    Return-to-duty testing locations are always determined by the prospective employer. Employers are free to work with any legitimate testing locations they choose. Keep in mind that many testing locations only collect the urine sample and send the sample out for laboratory analysis. This adds shipping time to the process.

  • How long am I going to be tested for?

    It is the SAP’s job to determine how many tests you should have each year once you complete the SAP assessment. All employees under federal DOT testing rules must submit to 6 tests (drug and/or alcohol as determined by the SAP) within the first 12 months of returning to duty. The SAP can direct you to be tested for up to 5 years. This includes the possibility that you may have some years where the SAP directs “0” tests. This could be on purpose to keep you on your toes or because the SAP saw you as being relatively low risk for reoccurrence of a violation.

    The SAP can submit a testing schedule for less than 5 years. It is at their discretion. If you have periods after your SAP assessment where you are not employed then the follow-up testing period is paused until your return to DOT regulated employment. In the event of temporarily paused employment (or a missed testing period due to employer error or omission), the testing period is extended so that your updated testing period covers the original SAP-determined testing period. As an employee, you are not able to see or know your follow-up testing schedule. However, we strongly recommend you keep in touch with the safety/HR director of any DOT-regulated employer about any follow-up tests being on track for the year. You aren’t contacting them to find out the exact schedule, you contact them to ensure you have been compliant with all testing as directed for that year. This is a gentle way to remind the employer (especially smaller employers with in-house safety/HR staff who wear a lot of hats) to stay current with your testing while also showing them you have no desire to avoid any required testing. If an employer drops the ball on testing you for a year for any reason, that year will be added back on to your testing schedule. That is why we strongly advise you stay in touch with the person in charge of the company drug testing program.

    CDL Holders: If you have not been tested for a lengthy period of time, do not assume that you have completed all of your required tests. Employers are required to indicate when you have finished all of your follow-up testing as required in the testing plan per your SAP. You should receive a notification from the FMCSA Clearinghouse once your last follow-up test has been completed. You should keep your email and contact information current on your Clearinghouse account to ensure you receive timely notification of completion. Be aware that even if you have completed your follow-up testing, your violation will still be listed on the Clearinghouse until a period of 5 years of continuous employment is finished. Once your testing plan is completed, and 5 years have passed since your original return to duty (whichever is longer), your violation will be removed from the FMCSA Clearinghouse.

  • How long will this be on the Clearinghouse (for CDL holders)

    Your violation is kept visible on the FMCSA Clearinghouse for a period of 5 years or until you have completed your follow-up testing plan. The only reason your violation would be on the Clearinghouse longer than 5 years would be because you stopped working in a DOT-regulated position for some time. Once you stop working you are no longer under the testing rules and regulations, whether it is for 3 weeks, 3 months, or 3 years. Then when you resume working, the 5-year period resumes. You could look at it as a stopwatch with a 5-year timeline, but it stops if you stop working your DOT-regulated position for any reason, then restarts when you pass your return-to-duty test and begin working again.

  • What if I disagree with my employer, medical review officer, testing personnel, or my SAP?

    If you believe that an employer, medical review officer, testing center employee, or your SAP are not acting professionally you can use the following email addresses to express a concern or complaint. For CDL holders – start with or call 800-832-5660. For non-CDL holders use

    Regardless of whether you believe your case is not being handled professionally, we recommend you always keep documentation of all your DOT tests, SAP meetings, phone calls, meetings with your HR/Safety Director, emails, and so forth.

  • I haven't been tested for a long time and starting to get tempted to use a prohibited substance but afraid to say anything so I don't lose my job.

    If this is you, you may be at a serious crossroads. Substance use is a mind game and if you fall for the game, and then get tested for whatever reason, you may find yourself out of job and in the middle of a multi-pronged crisis. You have many options that won’t get you in trouble with your employer or cause you to lose your job. Don’t procrastinate! Be honest with yourself and use one of these options BEFORE a problem happens that puts you, the public, and your family’s well-being at risk.

    Option 1: You can speak with your HR Director to seek EAP services if you have an EAP program (employee assistance program). Many employees have an EAP benefit but are unaware of the details. Check your employee manual or ask to speak to the HR director. You do not need to provide details of the reason you may want to use the program. Being tempted to use a prohibited substance should be kept confidential and being tempted to use a prohibited substance is not a DOT violation.

    Option 2: Seek private/confidential consultation in person or through telehealth with a substance abuse professional. Doing a quick web search will show you mental health professionals in your area who can help you figure out a strategy to avoid risking your job, your health, your relationships, and possible impact on the public. Remember, that the DOT exists in part to protect the public from the risks presented by prohibited substance use.

    Option 3: Support Groups - Have you used support groups in the past? It’s true that not all support groups are healthy or “supportive”, but many are. And many will provide a way for you to find a sponsor or mentor that can be a big help during stressful times.