Failing a USDOT-mandated drug test can be challenging for drivers, impacting their livelihood and professional reputation. In such a situation, understanding the Return to Duty process becomes crucial, as it outlines the necessary steps for drivers to resume their driving duties while ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements.

Acknowledging the Reality: Facing the Consequences

Upon failing a drug test, drivers need to acknowledge the reality of the situation and take responsibility for their actions. Whether it was an unintentional mistake or a lapse in judgment, owning up to the failure is the first step towards initiating the Return to Duty process.

Seeking Professional Guidance: Connecting with Substance Abuse Professionals (SAPs)

Following a failed drug test, drivers are required to engage with qualified Substance Abuse Professionals (SAPs). These professionals are pivotal in evaluating the trucker’s circumstances, recommending the appropriate treatment or education programs, and overseeing their progress throughout the Return to Duty process. They will:

  1. Perform a comprehensive in-person assessment
  2. Advise on the necessary treatment and/or education plan
  3. Deliver a detailed report to your employer regarding the recommendation
  4. Track your advancement through the plan
  5. Carry out an in-person follow-up evaluation to confirm the completion and success of the recommendation.

If the treatment is effective, SAP will notify the employer and request a return-to-duty test, which must come back negative. A positive test results in a new violation and necessitates another assessment. Failure to comply leads to a report of non-compliance and a follow-up testing plan involving at least six unannounced tests over a minimum of 12 months.

What Comes Next After the Substance Abuse Evaluation?

Your Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) will guide you through the treatment recommendations, follow-up testing, and your potential return to your DOT-regulated position. What your SAP will do next? Perform a clinical follow-up evaluation to assess your compliance with the recommendations and report your compliance to your employer. Then, your employer will decide whether to conduct a return-to-duty test and may also consider company policies, including the possibility of termination before or after the test. The USDOT drug testing aims to mitigate safety risks, and your employer’s primary concern is to ensure a safe work environment.

If your employer insists and you pass the return-to-duty USDOT drug screen, you’ll be subject to follow-up testing as mandated by your SAP. Typically, there will be at least six unannounced follow-up tests within the first year, with the potential for additional tests as determined by your SAP. The follow-up testing period can extend up to 5 years.

Embracing a Fresh Start: Returning to Safety-Sensitive Duties

Once the driver completes the “Return to Duty” process, including the SAP evaluation, treatment, and follow-up testing, they can return to safety-sensitive duties. This marks a significant milestone, symbolizing the trucker’s commitment to personal growth, professional excellence, and a renewed dedication to upholding safety standards within the industry.