We will limit this discussion to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations, but the basic principles apply to the other various DOT agencies which include:
For the required DOT random drug & alcohol we get these questions very often:
How many can be in a consortium?
In all reality any number greater than one can be in a consortium. A single owner operator driver must be in a consortium. The consortium is a grouping of owner operators and other companies combining all drivers into one testing pool. A company with 2 drivers or hundreds can be in a consortium pool for DOT drug and alcohol testing. There is no maximum number for the DOT drug & alcohol testing consortium.
What is the minimum number that can be in a consortium?
A consortium can have as little as two drivers. An owner operator must be in a consortium with at least 2 drivers in that consortium. Most consortiums have more than 2 drivers, but they have to start somewhere. With the DOT consortium for FMCSA, annual testing rates must be a minimum of 50% for drugs and 10% for alcohol. So, with a two-person consortium, one person will need to be selected for drugs and one person will need to be selected for alcohol. Rounding up is always required to meet the minimum random testing requirements.
As time goes on a smaller consortium will grow to a larger consortium. Employers with a small number of drivers will always want to be in a consortium. Employers with large number of drivers will be better served with a stand-alone random testing pool of their own drivers. This is not a regulation, but a general rule of thumb is that if you have 20 or less drivers use a Consortium; if you have more than 20 drivers use a stand-alone random testing pool of just your own drivers. Remember this is just a general rule of thumb, it is not black and white. It is ok if you have over 20 drivers and you still want to be in the consortium random testing pool.
What is the maximum number that can be in a consortium?
The regulations do not state a maximum number of drivers that can be in a consortium. So basically, any number which could be a few hundred to tens of thousands. The difficulty in managing a large consortium is making sure every person selected for random testing is tested. Keeping up with accurate driver lists is also a challenge. When hiring a Consortium/Third Party Administrator (C/TPA) to assist you with your requirements as an employer, make sure you utilize a professional and experienced C/TPA. Check also that they have industry accreditations.
Am I required to be in a consortium?
DOT regulated employers are required to have random drug and alcohol testing according to the regulations. They are not required to be in a consortium. For single owner operators joining a consortium is required. It is impossible to do 50% drug testing on one driver. Most Consortium/Third Party Administrators (C/TPA) will manage consortium random testing for owner operators and also have smaller employers with up to about 20 drivers enrolled in their consortiums. Collective the consortium might then have hundreds or thousands of members.
Can I have my own stand-alone random testing pool of just my drivers?
Yes, if as an employer you have more than one driver, you can have your own stand-alone random testing pool and avoid the consortium. It will be wise to talk to a professional C/TPA about your situation and number of drivers you have to make this decision. Employers may want to also look at the costs of the consortium vs stand-alone random testing pools. For smaller employer, the consortium can be more cost effective, for larger employers the stand-alone random testing pool can be more cost effective.
If I am in a large consortium, are the chances of getting selected lower?
This is a great question and one of the biggest myths in the trucking industry. Each person in the consortium has an equal chance of selection in each selection period. In fact, for either the consortium large or small or the employer stand-alone pool a driver could be selected multiple times in one year. A driver could also not be selected in a one-year period in either the consortium large or small or the employer stand-alone pool.
It is really the luck of the draw. Even in a small consortium of let’s say 10 drivers. there will a 50% requirement for drug tests so 5 tests for the year. You can get selected once or multiple times or not get selected. In a large consortium of let’s say 10,000 drivers, there will a 50% requirement for drug tests so 5000 drug tests for the year. You can get selected once or multiple times or not get selected. If you are getting selected often you should play the lottery and your friend across town for working for another company might not be selected at all. All companies in the consortium are in 100% compliance if the Consortium meets the annual requirements of 50% testing for drugs and 10% testing for alcohol. Learn about the best practices for DOT random testing.
An employer who believes that joining a larger consortium will help avoid testing is always mistaken.
For more on random testing consortiums and FMCSA compliant programs visit any of the web pages below: