Consortium/Third Party Administrators (C/TPAs) provide a variety of drug and alcohol testing services to employers. These services are for DOT and Non-DOT programs. The variety of drug and alcohol testing services are provided by what we call Service Agents (SA). Many times, the C/TPA provides some of these services directly as the service agent and often some or all these services are outsourced to other service agents.

Service agents include the specimen collectors, collection sites, breath alcohol technicians (BAT), screening test technicians (STT), SAMHSA certified laboratories, Medical Review Officer (MRO) and Substance Abuse Professional (SAP). Each of these service agents offers services to help employers comply with the DOT drug and alcohol testing regulations. Typically a C/TPA will provide all or most of these services to their employer clients.


Learn more about the TPA or C/TPA and service agents in the drug and alcohol testing industry. National Drug Screening (NDS) is a full service C/TPA providing services for employers all across the United States. NDS is a nationally accredited C/TPA.

Drug Testing Specimen Collections

Alcohol Testing

Is Testing Done at the Collection Site?

Before moving on to other service agents, it is important to discuss some key issues regarding specimen collectors, collection sites, and breath alcohol technicians. Often these service agents have been referred to as the weakest link in the drug and alcohol testing program.

As a C/TPA you need to avoid this weak link. If you employ your own collectors; training and DOT qualification are critical to your operation. Retraining is also critical. Mistakes and problems are eliminated with well-trained professional collectors. DOT requires training and proficiency demonstration for collectors and BATs. When you are outsourcing the collection or breath alcohol testing, things can get more challenging. As a TPA you must verify that the collectors you are utilizing are trained and qualified. This is a huge responsibility; your employer clients are counting on you to perform your services and those services you outsource efficiently, in compliance with regulations and with minimum exposure to liability. Online remote training is available so very easy to accomplish.

Drug and alcohol testing is mostly done at collection sites. Some employers might operate collection sites at their business or bring in mobile collectors for onsite specimen collections.

SAMHSA Certified Labs for Actual Testing

Laboratories (Lab) – After collection from the donor, a specimen is sealed with a tamper evident seal and sent to a laboratory for analysis. The primary advantages of utilizing a laboratory for testing include compliance with regulations, accuracy, legal defensibility, and the ability to customize tests for the needs of the client. A laboratory is a brick and mortar facility that does the testing, not the facility that collects the specimen. Folks get confused about this and say, “I’m going to the lab for my drug test.” They actually mean they are going to the collection site for specimen collection. A very big investment is required to own and operate a laboratory. Major laboratories currently involved with drug testing include Quest Diagnostics, LabCorp, MedTox, Alere Toxicology, and Clinical Reference Laboratory (CRL). There are many other laboratories, both regional and national. Always check for the SAMHSA certification so you are confident of the lab you are using.

Testing for federal agency employees, the DOT testing program, and many state laws stipulate using labs that are certified by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Commonly called SAMHSA certified labs, it is a best practice to always use these labs which have required quality control standards and a rigorous inspection process to ensure accurate test results. SAMHSA maintains a current list of certified laboratories available at:https://www.samhsa.gov/workplace/resources/drug-testing/certified-lab-list

Instant Testing or Point of Collection Testing (POCT)

Certified Medical Review of Drug Test Results

Other Players

Assistance and Treatment

Implementation of Drug Free Workplace

Putting It All Together

Third Party Administrator (TPA) – This is basically a service provider or service agent that provides two or more of the services involved in the drug testing process. A TPA or C/TPA might coordinate for an employer the entire process of the specimen collection: breath alcohol testing, laboratory testing, and review and reporting by the Medical Review Officer (MRO), thereby providing all of these services under a one stop shop. A TPA will typically provide everything to the employer client to keep the client in compliance with the applicable regulations and best practice – DOT, federal, and state laws, etc.

The word “Consortium” was added to the term “Third Party Administrator in 2001 by the United States Transportation when the drug testing rule 49 CFR Part 40 was rewritten. So now those providing a variety of services for employers for drug and alcohol testing are referred to as Consortium/Third Party Administrators or C/TPAs.