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What are Service Agents?

A service agent is any person or entity, other than an employee of the motor carrier, used to help implement the DOT/FMCSA drug and alcohol testing regulations. These might include a urine collector, a breath alcohol technician, a screening test technician, a laboratory, a medical review officer, a substance abuse professional, or a consortium/third-party administrator in charge of coordinating the employer’s testing services. Service agents may be used to administer part or all of an employer’s DOT drug and alcohol testing program. Service agent requirements are defined by 49 CFR Part 40, the DOT-wide regulation that states how to conduct testing and how to return employees to safety-sensitive duties after they violate a DOT and FMCSA drug and alcohol regulation.

While a motor carrier employer can hire various service agents to collect specimens, conduct laboratory analyses, medically review lab results, determine test outcomes or even administer the drug and alcohol testing program; motor carrier employers cannot delegate responsibility to comply with all applicable requirements and procedures of 49 CFR Part 40 and Part 382. This means that employers are responsible for all actions of employees, representatives, and agents (including service agents) in carrying out the requirements of the DOT agency regulations.

Employers can be held responsible for service agent errors and resulting civil penalty actions for noncompliance. Service agent violations may be directly addressed under the public interest exclusion (PIE) as described in 49 CFR Part 40 Subpart R. Additionally under the Safe Roads Act of 2012, Congress provided authority for civil penalty actions against service agents (49 USC 31306a) [Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act ("MAP-21"; P.L. 112-141)].

It is critical, therefore, to understand the DOT requirements and responsibilities of service agents. The U.S. DOT Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy and Compliance (ODAPC) Web site provides detailed information for each service agent:

Medical Review Officer – A licensed physician trained and certified to review the lab results and to validate whether a test is positive. Read more >>

Urine Collector – An individual trained to collect and ship urine specimens and ensure collection site security and integrity. Read more >>

Laboratory – A Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) certified laboratory that evaluates the urine specimen submitted by collectors, including an analysis to determine the existence and concentration of controlled substances. Read more >>

Substance Abuse Professional – A licensed or certified health care professional with knowledge of the diagnosis and treatment of alcohol and controlled substances related disorders. Read more >>

Screening Test Technician and Breath Alcohol Technician – Individuals trained to conduct alcohol screening and confirmation tests, document test results and transmit results in a timely and confidential manner. Read more >>

Consortium/Third-party Administrator (C/TPA) – A service agent who coordinates a variety of drug and alcohol testing services for employers. The C/TPA may not, however, serve as the designated employer representative (DER). An employer who employs only himself/herself as a driver, who is not leased to a motor carrier, must belong to a consortium for random testing purposes. Read more >>

Updated: Thursday, December 18, 2014