Breath Alcohol Technicians vs Screen Test Technicians

Breath Alcohol Technicians vs. Screen Test Technicians

If you’re looking to start your own alcohol and drug testing business, you may be wondering whether to choose breath alcohol technician (BAT) or screen test technician (STT) training for you and your employees. What’s the difference? Is one option better, or should you do both?

A Two Step Test

The Department of Transportation (DOT) set strict regulations on alcohol and drug testing protocols. For test results to be considered valid, testing professionals must follow these strict protocols. In the case of breath or saliva testing for alcohol, the testing process is as follows:

Step 1: A Screening Test – When employees come in for testing, they give a breath or saliva sample to show they haven’t been drinking. This first test is called a screening. If they pass the screening test and prove they’re sober, then the employee is good to go. If they fail the test, they must move on to the next step.

Step 2: A Confirmation Test – If the employee fails the breath or saliva test, then the DOT requires a confirmation test to be administered after 15 but no later than 30 minutes after the first test. The second test is necessary to prove the accuracy of the first before the employee is penalized. A failed test could mean the employee losing their source of income. Thus, accuracy is a must.


Since accuracy is vital, proper training and equipment for those administering these tests is essential. The type of training you provide to employees will determine how useful individuals can be in providing testing services and how large your investment as a business owner will be.

  • Tests: Both the screen test technician and breath alcohol technician can perform step one, the screening test. However, only the breath alcohol technician can administer the second step, the confirmation test.
  • Training: BAT training courses are a little more extensive and, therefore, more expensive than STT training. Getting staff to complete breath alcohol technician certification will cost more than STT-training staff, but it will make them more versatile.
  • Equipment: The screening test requires a breathalyzer, better known as a Blood Alcohol Content device (BAC), available for $50. The confirmation test uses the more expensive (and accurate) Evidential Breath Testing devices (EBT). EBT machines are a larger investment at approximately $2000 per device.

The Problem

Whether the employee is getting tested as part of a pre-hire process, as part of an ongoing drug testing program, or because they’ve exhibited signs of driving under the influence, you want your office to handle the test. If the screening registers a breath alcohol level of more than 0.020, you must either have a BAT on hand or you must transport them to another facility within the 15-30 minute time frame for the second test. This requirement can pose significant problems for your office.

  • Scenario 1: Let’s say you only have an STT on staff when an employee fails the screening test. According to the screening, this person is under the influence. How could you ask them to drive themselves to another location for the second test? If they got into an accident on the way and police found out you let them get behind the wheel impaired, the DOT (not to mention the victim’s lawyers) could hold you liable. Your office could face penalties.
  • Scenario 2: In the same situation, you could decide to transport the driver to the second facility. Traffic is bad, and the employee does not arrive in time to perform the confirmation test. Again, your office could face penalties. You’re also feeding clients to your competitor. The employer may have the employee go to the other facility next time rather than pay two bills.

The Solution

Every business owner has to weigh costs with functionality and need, but it is clear that having at least one breath alcohol technician on staff is a must if you’re to run an efficient operation. However, you could run into problems with only one BAT employee if that employee is sick or on vacation.

The better option is to hire all BAT-trained staff and always have someone available to perform the confirmation test within the 15-minute window or hire some STT and some BAT-trained staff. You can get BAC devices for all employees and have one or two EBT devices on hand for the confirmation tests as well.

Training Options

Whether you’re looking for breath alcohol technician training online for you or your employees, you can find online options. Not only can you meet the educational component of the BAT qualifications, but you can do mock collections to complete your certification. That way, you or your employees can complete your training at times and locations that best suit your needs.

Partnering for Success

Starting a new business can be daunting. Hiring staff that will fit your budget and needs, equipping your office, and getting a client base are all essential for success. A good strategy is to join a network. You can get substantial discounts that decrease your overhead. The network can send referrals without additional advertising costs. And they can help you stay compliant with DOT regulations by offering updated forms, training, and supplies.