DOT Return-to-Duty & Follow-Up Testing

By Mike Every, Foley

Of all DOT test types, Return-to-Duty (RTD) and Follow-Ups may be the most misunderstood, and they’re the ones all of us hope we never have to encounter. After all, these tests are only administered after an employee has received a positive test result.

Seasonal & Returning Drivers
Seasonal companies, such as oil and gas carriers, often re-hire drivers at the start of their season. Because these drivers are “returning to duty” for the new season, it’s reasonable to assume that they should take a Return-to-Duty drug test upon their return. However, it’s actually a Pre-Employment test they must take.

Return-to-Duty vs. Pre-Employment Drug Tests
A Return to Duty (RTD) test is the final step of an employee being allowed to resume safety-sensitive functions – or driving – following a positive test result. It is to be administered only after the entire Return-to-Duty process (outlined to the right) has been completed. The most important distinction between a RTD and Pre-Employment test is that the RTD must be conducted under direct observation. This means an individual of the same sex must be present during the collection process to prevent tampering and ensure the validity of the test.

The Return-to-Duty Process
Upon testing positive for a controlled substance, the following steps must be completed:

  1. Immediate removal from safety-sensitive functions – If an employer receives a positive test result for a current employee (such as after a Random drug test), the employee is to immediately cease all safety-sensitive functions. Even if the driver is on the road in another state, he must be notified to pull over as soon as he can do so safely.
    In the case of a positive Pre-Employment drug test, the individual must not begin performing safety-sensitive functions for any company until the RTD process is complete.
  2. Initial Evaluation with a DOT-Qualified Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) – The SAP will evaluate the employee to determine what type of activities or treatment plan must be completed before the employee can resume safety-sensitive functions.
  3. Follow-Up Evaluation – After the employee has completed the SAP’s requirements, another evaluation must take place with the same SAP. The SAP will then determine whether the employee may resume safety-sensitive functions.
  4. Follow-Up Test Schedule – The SAP will provide the employer, and/or a Third Party Administrator such as Foley, with a schedule of Follow-Up tests that must be completed after the employee returns to work.
  5. Return-to-Duty Drug Test – Once the SAP confirms that the employee has successfully completed all the requirements, the RTD test must be taken. Once a negative result is received, the employee may resume safety-sensitive functions.

Note: The SAP may also administer a drug test, but this is only for their records and is not required under DOT regulations.
Follow-Up Testing
The SAP must schedule a minimum of six tests over a 12-month period. Depending on the SAP’s requirements, this process may continue for up to five years. Like the RTD test, each Follow-Up test must be conducted under direct observation.

In addition to Follow-Up testing, the employee must also be subject to the usual random testing requirements.

Due to the severe consequences of testing positive, our next article will get into what you need to know about positive results.

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