Designated Employer Representative DOT: Everything We Know

Designated Employer Representative DOT: Everything We Know


Every Department of Transportation (DOT) governed employer must have a Designated Employer Representative (DER). The DER is the primary contact for all aspects of your workplace drug and alcohol program and policy. It will be the person to whom you report any suspected violations of drug or alcohol policies. 

The DER must, by law, report violations to "company officials" (DOT defines "company officials" as including Supervisors, Managers, and those who have been delegated the responsibility for investigation of possible violations by management)

The purpose of the DER is to ensure that all potential DOT drug and alcohol policy violations are taken into account on time. Besides, the DER must also ensure that all violations are investigated, and actions are taken to correct them.

Table Of Contents:

What Is A Designated Employer Representative?

A Designated Employer Representative (DER) is a person who their employer has designated to perform the function of taking immediate action in the event of any violation of a DOT drug or alcohol regulation by a safety-sensitive employee, to make decisions required in the testing process, and to receive test results. 

The term "designate" is used because the employer has delegated authority to one employee to perform their functions. If a company has no policy designating an employee to perform a particular function, the Vice President of Human Resources or Personnel might still carry out that function.

The Designated Employer Representative (DER) must be capable of receiving, understanding, performing, and following all DOT drug program policies, procedures and regulations. 

They must also be knowledgeable about the procedures and activities performed by the safety-sensitive employees.

Employers of all sizes, industries, and locations have a responsibility to have a designated employer representative who is capable of performing the various functions of a Designated Employer Representative. 

Furthermore, a few significant responsibilities of the Designated Employer Representative are:

It's Actually Six Jobs in One: DER job contains six very distinct roles, which all need different skill sets. These include

  1. The Manager: The DER is the person who should handle all the day-to-day responsibilities of their position. They must be a very clear communicator and have excellent people skills, as they are responsible for routing information through many, often diverse, parties.
  2. The Policy Maker: The DER might work with the League and DOT drug testing regulations and policies and make sense of them. They must understand the federal government's requirements, particularly drug testing, to ensure that their company is compliant with the rules. Also, they are responsible for updating drug and alcohol policy and procedure manuals to ensure that the policy complies with federal laws and regulations.
  3. The Analyst: The DER analysis data, conduct research, and determines trends, etc., to identify deficiencies or issues with the company's drug-testing program, policies, or procedures. Also, they are responsible for compiling data from their drug testing program and compiling it in a manner that can be understood by anyone involved with the program and acting on that data as necessary.
  4. The Liaison: The DER is a resource for their company's TPA/C/TPA, collection site(s), lab(s), MRO(s), SAP(s), etc., when questions/challenges arise.
  5. The Executive: The DER must manage its position and make policies, procedures, and programs work effectively. Furthermore, they must ensure that the program is managed and implemented in the best possible way.
  6. The record keeper: The DER must keep accurate and complete records of drug and alcohol testing-related information. They must make sense of large amounts of data and ensure that management can access all the information they need. Also, they are responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of all paperwork and information. The DER should be skilled in various aspects of the DOT drug testing program.

Managing employee testing: The DER handles and ensures that the company's drug testing policies and programs are implemented in a timely, accurate, and efficient manner and that all tests are performed per the proper procedure. Also, they must be aware of every test and its results. The DER is not responsible for actual testing procedures, equipment, or method; instead, they are responsible for communicating with employees/safety-sensitive employees about the upcoming tests and confirming test results.

Performing the functions necessary according to the results of the tests and taking immediate action, including:

  1. Notifying management and the responsible party (if any) of the results of the test(s)
  2. Notifying the appropriate Safety-Sensitive Employee(s) (SSEs) if they fail a test
  3. Informing the appropriate EAP/C/TPA professional of all test results
  4. Taking immediate action to address and correct any infractions following DOT drug test policy, including taking disciplinary and corrective action as per the DOT drug policy (i.e., termination, disciplinary action, etc.)
Managing confidentiality: The DER must ensure the utmost confidentiality of all test results and information.

    Qualifications Of A Designated Employer Representative(DER)

    There is not a specific type or amount of experience or training that an employer representative must have to be considered a "designated employer representative." But, DOT does outline the following qualifications:

    • The Designated Employer Representative (DER) must be capable of performing their assigned functions according to DOT drug policy, procedures and regulations. 
    • The Designated Employer Representative (DER) must know the procedures and activities performed by the safety-sensitive employees.
    • The Designated Employer Representative (DER) should prove experience with or knowledge of safety-sensitive employee drug testing.
    • The Designated Employer Representative (DER) must be able to provide effective leadership to their staff in carrying out their responsibilities under the DOT drug-testing program and policy. 
    • The Designated Employer Representative (DER) should have a positive attitude toward the program and be knowledgeable about the program's objectives, including ensuring that all actions are as per the DOT drug policy and regulations.
    • The Designated Employer Representative (DER) should have the ability to communicate effectively, both verbally and in writing, with all parties involved in the program and inform them of their responsibilities or issue appropriate work assignments.
    • The Designated Employer Representative (DER) should be able to work effectively on their own, within a group, or as part of a team.
    • The Designated Employer Representative (DER) should have exceptional interpersonal skills and is a good communicator effectively and professionally (verbal and written).

    Why Should An Employer Have A DER?

    The DER is a crucial position necessary for every DOT drug-testing program. It is a position that is not only responsible for implementing and maintaining the DOT drug-testing program but is also responsible for ensuring that the program runs smoothly. The employer needs DER as:

    1. They are the ones who have responsibility for the drug policy, procedures, and regulations.
    2. They are the ones who will ensure that all employees are subject to drug testing.
    3. They need to be able to make decisions about suspensions, terminations, and referrals to employee assistance programs (EAP) or controlled substance education programs (CSEP) as necessary.

    How Often Does The DER Test Themselves For Drugs?

    DERs are not required to take part in self-testing for drugs or alcohol. They might participate in self-testing, but it is not mandatory. But, DERs are encouraged to take part in an annual DOT drug and alcohol test. 

    The DER is a safety-sensitive employee (SSE), and, as such, they must follow the drug-free workplace rules in force within their company. Violation of those rules could result in disciplinary action against the DER by their company, including possible termination from employment.


    The DOT believes that a DER is an essential position the employer must fill. The DER contributes to improving the safety of employees and saving costs for both employees and companies. 

    It is also crucial that the employer educate their DER about the DOT's rules and requirements for drug and alcohol testing. Also, the employer must provide its employees with enough resources to ensure a successful DOT drug-testing program. Thus, the employer must ensure that it has an efficient designated employer representative (DER).


    What is the difference between a designated employer representative and a third-party administrator?

    The third-party administrator (TPA) is an organization contracted by the employer to provide drug-testing services. Additionally, a TPA handles drug tests and reports negative results to the company. Although, a DER does not offer testing services. Moreover, the DER's role does not include reporting negative drug testing results to the company. A DER's role is limited to monitoring and overseeing DOT drug testing at the worksite.

    Can The Employer Act As A Designated Employer Representative (DER), Opposed To Appointing Another Employee To Play This Role?

    Yes, the employer can themselves act as DER. But, the employer must ensure they have the knowledge and experience to carry out these responsibilities correctly and effectively. 

    Having an in-house DER may be more cost-effective than paying for a third-party DER. Moreover, a few of its benefits are:

    • A DER in-house will be able to communicate with other company officials about the drug tests, saving time.
    • A DER in-house will be able to perform the required tasks and duties without worrying about what a third-party DER may charge for their services.

    Also, suppose the DER is an in-house employee or the employer itself. In that case, it is advisable to have them appointed by the company's human resources department and the company's safety-sensitive employee training department.

    Furthermore, in case a third-party DER is retained, there are several benefits:

    • The third-party DER has the duty of testing employee safety-sensitive employees. They will better understand the need to follow the DOT drug policy, procedures, and regulations.
    • Third-party DERs will have knowledge, expertise and experience in DOT drug testing that the employer's in-house human resources department may lack.

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