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  • Writer's pictureHolly Rainwater

What is a DER and what does a DER do?

I have spent a majority of my 20+ year professional career either in the role of a DER or assisting other DERs as a C/TPA. During this time, there has always been a constant - No one knew what a "DER" was.

A DER - is an acronym for Designated Employer Representative. The role of the DER is defined in 49 CFR Part 40.3:

Designated employer representative (DER). An employee authorized by the employer to take immediate action(s) to remove employees from safety-sensitive duties, or cause employees to be removed from these covered duties, and to make required decisions in the testing and evaluation processes. The DER also receives test results and other communications for the employer, consistent with the requirements of this part.

Service agents cannot act as DERs.

The DER oversees your company's federal drug and alcohol program functions. The DER cannot be a service agent. The DER must be a company employee. The only exception is when C/TPAs function as DERs for owner-operator truck drivers.

The DER should have knowledge of and authority to make decisions and answer questions about the drug and alcohol testing process. The DER receives test results from the Medical Review Officer (MRO) and Breath Alcohol Technician (BAT) and takes immediate action to remove employees from their safety-sensitive duties when they violate drug and alcohol testing rules, such as test positive or refuse a test. A company may have more than one DER to ensure adequate coverage on all shifts and at all locations, with perhaps a drug and alcohol program manager to coordinate the entire program and assure consistency among DERs.

Even though service agents cannot be DERs, they can assist DERs with their program administration. A Consortium/Third-party administrator (C/TPA) is a service agent that provides or coordinates of a variety of drug and alcohol testing services and often perform administrative tasks concerning the operation of the employers' drug and alcohol testing programs. For example, a DER can contract with a C/TPA to perform its drug and alcohol collections, Medical Review Officer (MRO) reporting, laboratory, and random generation services. The partnership between a C/TPA and the DER is essential in developing a compliant and effective drug and alcohol program.


Spark TS Solutions and Services - C/TPA Services

We believe that drug and alcohol testing programs play a key role in the safety of the transportation industry. Our online tools significantly simplify drug and alcohol testing administration for the Designated Employer Representative (DER). We are experts in managing federally-mandated drug and alcohol programs including 49 CFR Part 219, 382, and 655.

Our C/TPA services are designed in partnership with you to allow the Designated Employer Representative (DER) to leverage online tools and an industry network so that they can avoid unnecessary administrative tasks and focus on managing a compliant and effective program.

Looking for solutions for your company?

Be sure to talk with us about our products, services, and pricing specifically for DOT regulated employers. Contact us at

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