Last updated: November 27, 2023
The FMCSA Clearinghouse has been up and running at full speed for over a month now. However, not everyone who needs to register at the site to report activity pertaining to drug and alcohol violations has done so yet—Substance Abuse Professionals included.
That became apparent when the FMCSA sent out a reminder for SAPs last week outlining their responsibilities.
It began with the importance of registering.
In order for a driver to designate someone as their SAP, they must have an account in the Clearinghouse. Otherwise, the client can’t request them as their SAP.
Sign in to sign up
In order to access the Clearinghouse to begin registration, SAPs need to have a login.gov account. It allows safe and secure access to their FMCSA Clearinghouse account. Once signed in, if they need help with registration, there’s a step-by-step guide readily accessible.
When a driver sends a designation request, it appears in the SAPs dashboard. They’ll probably be expecting it because drivers are instructed to notify their chosen SAP prior to sending a designation request through the Clearinghouse. All designation requests received are placed on the Drivers List.
SAPs access the list from the “My Dashboard” area. If there is a name on the list they don’t recognize, SAPs should access the contact information and get in touch with the driver before accepting the request.
There’s a chance that there’s been some type of mix-up if they hadn’t contacted you in advance.
If after letting an SAP know that they’ll be sending a designation request nothing shows up on your dashboard, there are two likely reasons.
- The driver may still need to add or verify their CDL information in their Clearinghouse profile. Until that’s done, they won’t be able to access an option to designate an SAP.
- The driver’s violation may have inadvertently been entered incorrectly in the Clearinghouse by the reporting source. If that’s the case, the driver won’t be able to access the designate SAP option until the information is reentered correctly by the employer or MRO (Medical Review Officer).
It’s a 2 step reporting process
SAPs report the information that pertains to the driver’s return to duty process.
In short, the duties seem easy enough.
- Log the date of the initial SAP assessment in the FMCSA Clearinghouse database.
- Report the date that the driver is eligible for return to duty testing due to the completion of the education and treatment plan.
The education and treatment plans themselves aren’t uploaded into the system. Neither are reports or any other information pertaining to the return to duty process.
SAPs still provide all of that information to the driver’s employer. However, they do it outside the Clearinghouse by the same means used prior to January 6, 2020.
A big responsibility
When someone decides to become a Substance Abuse Professional they’re taking on a huge responsibility.
“Because you choose to be a SAP, you elect to have a special relationship and bond with everyone the employee will encounter if that employee returns to the performance of safety-sensitive duties. The traveling public is made up of kids, moms, dads, boyfriends, girlfriends, wives, husbands, partners, close friends, acquaintances, strangers, coworkers, neighbors, and many others. All are riding on, literally and figuratively, the decisions you make.”
With things put in that perspective, it’s easy to realize the weight of responsibility that SAPs assume.
From the moment they make their recommendation for the best means of assistance for the driver, they play an intricate part in their return to duty process.
They must be knowledgeable in several areas to provide their best recommendation.
- Quality treatment programs in the area
- Qualified counselors
- Benefit plans
- Payment requirements
Moreover, if possible, SAPs should be aware of the employer’s policies regarding
- Payment for treatment
- On-duty-time treatment programming
- Granting of administrative sick or annual leave for in-patient and out-patient treatment
Lastly, the SAP informs the driver of Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Al-Anon, and other self-help groups nearby.
Just the tip of the iceberg
It’s the SAPs job to determine if the driver has successfully completed the compliance recommendations set at the initial evaluation.
All the while, remembering that they hold a huge responsibility to the public at large in regard to roadway safety.
If they deem the driver has met the set requirements during their face-to-face follow-up evaluation, they notify the employer that they’re ready to return to duty.
SAPs develop and direct the follow-up drug testing plan for the driver after they’ve returned to work. Not all plans are the same regarding the number of follow-up tests. In some cases, SAPs determine that an “aftercare” referral for continued education or treatment is necessary—even though the employee has returned to safety-sensitive duties.
The FMCSA Clearinghouse only requires SAPs to report the beginning and end of their time spent with a driver during the return to duty process. However, the initial evaluation is critical. It’s the first step in helping the driver find treatment. In turn, they can form relationships that encourage perseverance.
It takes a special person to shoulder that type of weight.
Beating drug addiction is tough and having a solid support system in place is a major step toward success.
Substance Abuse Professionals are part of that system.
They understand that ultimately though they must truly believe the driver isn’t a threat to the rest of us before their job is complete.