What you need to know about the drug and alcohol clearinghouse

December 2019/January 2020

Mark Schremmer

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Beginning Jan. 6, FMCSA’s Commercial Driver’s License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse becomes operational.

The clearinghouse is intended to be a secure online database allowing FMCSA, commercial motor vehicle employers, state driver licensing agencies, and law enforcement officials to quickly identify CDL holders who have violated federal drug and alcohol testing requirements. A December 2016 final rule to establish the clearinghouse was mandated by Congress in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act.

The clearinghouse will contain records of violations of drug and alcohol prohibitions, including positive drug or alcohol test results and test refusals. When a driver completes the return-to-duty process and follow-up testing plan, this information also will be recorded in the clearinghouse.

Registration for the clearinghouse can be done at Clearinghouse.FMCSA.dot.gov/register. There is no cost to register.

For CDL holders

Clearinghouse registration is not required for drivers. If a driver is never required to provide consent to a pre-employment or other full query and never incurs a drug and alcohol program violation, then the driver will not need to register.

However, a driver must be registered to provide electronic consent in the clearinghouse for a prospective or current employer to conduct a full query of his or her driving record. Beginning Jan. 6, a full query will be required during a pre-employment screening for a CDL holder. Failing to consent to a query will result in a driver being prohibited from performing safety-sensitive functions for the employer conducting the query. They will be prohibited from driving.

In addition, a driver must also be registered to view the information electronically in his or her own clearinghouse record. So drivers don’t necessarily have to register, but they may want to do so anyway.

Amber Schweer, supervisor of OOIDA’s drug and alcohol consortium, reiterated that if you are a driver who doesn’t plan on leaving his or her carrier, then you don’t have to register for the clearinghouse. However, Schweer said it still may be a good idea. By reviewing their clearinghouse records, drivers can initiate the process to revise or remove any incorrectly entered information.

“It can be beneficial to go ahead and get registered,” Schweer said. “You will receive an email if someone adds something to your record. This way, you can be proactive rather than reactive.”

For employers

Beginning Jan. 6, employers will be required to report drug and alcohol violations and conduct queries.

Violations to be reported include alcohol test results with a concentration of 0.04 or greater, refusals to take an alcohol or drug test, as well as knowledge of a violation. Employers also will report negative return-to-duty test results and the successful completion of a driver’s follow-up testing plan. The information must be reported by the close of the third business day after the employer is notified.

Employers are required to conduct full queries on prospective employees to see if they are prohibited from operating a commercial motor vehicle because of unresolved drug and alcohol violations. Employers also must query all current employees at last once a year. All queries require driver consent.

Once an employer is registered, it can verify its information, designate a consortia or third-party administrator, invite assistants, and purchase a query plan.

For owner-operators

Owner-operators with their own authority are subject to the requirements pertaining to employers as well as those pertaining to drivers.

That means owner-operators with their own authority are required to conduct queries on themselves at least once a year.

“It doesn’t necessarily make sense for a single owner-operator to have to query themselves, but they are saying you have to,” Schweer said.

Owner-operators with their own authority must designate a consortium or third-party administrator.

“As an owner-operator, you are required to work with at least one consortium or third-party administrator,” the clearinghouse website states. “You must designate your C/TPA in the clearinghouse before they can access the clearinghouse on your behalf.”

OOIDA plans to offer the service of conducting queries.

FAQs

Does the final rule change any of the existing drug and alcohol requirements?

No. The final rule doesn’t change any of the Department of Transportation’s existing requirements.

Will drivers be able to access their own information in the clearinghouse?

Yes. Once a driver has registered in the clearinghouse, he or she will be able to access the clearinghouse record electronically at no cost.

How will state driver licensing agencies use the clearinghouse?

They will be able to query the clearinghouse before completing licensing transactions, such as issuance, renewal, transfer and upgrade of a commercial driver’s license. A recent notice of proposed rulemaking proposed to delay the states’ mandatory compliance with the requirement until Jan. 6, 2023.

If a driver has a drug and alcohol program violation in one state, will the clearinghouse be able to connect that driver’s history when he or she applies in another state?

Yes. The clearinghouse will identify drivers who move frequently and obtain CDLs in different states and link those CDLs.

How do I purchase a query plan?

Query plans may be purchased only on the FMCSA clearinghouse website by registered employers. A consortium or third-party administrator may not buy a plan on behalf of an employer.

How do owner-operators meet their clearinghouse obligations?

An owner-operator is subject to the requirements pertaining to employers, as well as those pertaining to drivers. Under the clearinghouse final rule, an employer who employs himself as a commercial driver must designate a consortium or third-party administrator to comply with the employer’s clearinghouse reporting requirements.

Answers to additional questions can be found at Clearinghouse.FMCSA.dot.gov/FAQ. LL

 

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Mark Schremmer

Mark Schremmer, senior editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and nearly two decades of journalism experience to our staff.