How to Handle an OWI as a Commercial Driver’s License Holder

Posted by Prelude on Jul 28, 2015 9:00:00 AM


Synchrony offers a wide range of behavioral health services, but one of the more unique services we offer is called Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) services. Through the SAP process, Synchrony counselors evaluate and make specific education or treatment recommendations for individuals who have violated the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) alcohol and drug regulations.

Often times, employees and employers are uncertain about the SAP’s role and the return-to-duty process. To help, we have compiled a list of frequently asked questions:  

I hold a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) and received an OWI in my personal vehicle, do I need to complete the SAP process?

No.  Receiving a charge of Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) does not require one to complete the return-to-duty process.  However, to meet court and DOT requirements for the state of Iowa you will need to complete a substance abuse evaluation.  

My employer informed me I was chosen for a random drug test, but I couldn’t provide a sample in time, do I need to complete the SAP process?

Yes.  Failing to provide a sample within the allotted time frame constitutes a refusal to test and requires one to complete the return-to-duty process.  

I completed the SAP process and provided a negative return-to-duty drug test, how many more drug tests do I have to complete?

While it is unknown how many tests you will be required to take, the DOT guidelines indicate the SAP can recommend follow-up testing for up to 60 months and must recommend a minimum of six tests during the first twelve months.  Follow-up testing is recommended by the SAP and is based on several factors, including one’s history, involvement in treatment or 12-step meetings, outside support systems, substance of abuse, etc.  The follow-up testing is in addition to your employer’s random testing pool.

I provided a positive post-accident drug test, will I be fired?

The DOT guidelines do not dictate termination practices of an employer.  The employer will decide the course of action taken, often times based on their policies and procedures.

I met with a SAP for an initial appointment, but I don’t agree with their recommendation, can I see someone else?

No.  DOT guidelines indicate once you initiate services with a qualified SAP you may not seek a second opinion. The DOT guidelines also state that a SAP must recommend education or treatment, therefore seeking out a second opinion will not result in no recommendation given.

I need to complete the SAP process, does my employer pay the fee?

The DOT guidelines do not specify who is responsible for paying for the SAP evaluation, treatment, or follow-up testing.  The employer’s policies and procedures often dictate financial responsibility.

The nearest SAP is several hours away from where I live, can my evaluation be done over the phone?

No.  SAP evaluations and follow-ups must be done face-to-face.

To read the DOT regulation’s in their entirety visit,

If you have other questions about the SAP’s role, the return-to-duty process, or would like to schedule an appointment, feel free to contact Jill Johnson at or (319) 351-9072.



Topics: Synchrony

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From prevention to intensive residential care, Prelude offers a range of services to help you and your loved one lead a full, productive life.  Prelude Behavioral Services has been providing comprehensive services since 1969. We are committed to serving hard-to-reach and disenfranchised populations and to breaking down barriers that hinder access to behavioral health care for all Iowans.



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