FirstGroup seeks exemption from ‘costly’ Clearinghouse requirement

March 15, 2021

Mark Schremmer


The transportation company FirstGroup wants an exemption from FMCSA’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse pre-employment full query because it is costing them “hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

FirstGroup’s exemption request is scheduled to publish in the Federal Register on Tuesday, March 16.

The company, which is based in the United Kingdom but also offers services in the United States, applied for the exemption on behalf of three of its subsidiaries, First Student, First Transit, and First Mile Square. According to the FirstGroup website, First Student is the largest provider of home-to-school transportation in North America with a fleet of 43,000 yellow school buses.

FMCSA’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse requires motor carriers not to employ a commercial motor vehicle driver without first conducting a pre-employment full query.

The full query allows the employer to see any information that exists about a driver in the Clearinghouse. A limited query will tell the employer if information about a driver exists in the Clearinghouse but will not release that information to the employer.

FirstGroup says the full query requirement is “hindering its ability to hire at the speed and level needed to keep pace with the demands of the contracted school and transit transportation industry.” The company added that the delays and administrative costs stemming from full query has resulted in “hundreds of thousands of dollars of increased costs.”

As an alternative, First Group is requesting FMCSA to allow it to conduct a limited pre-employment query of the Clearinghouse. FirstGroup said if the limited query indicated that information about the driver existed in the Clearinghouse, the company would then conduct a full query with the consent of the driver. As part of the exemption request, FirstGroup also would conduct a second limited query within 30 to 55 days of the initial limited query and conduct multiple limited queries on all of its CDL drivers each year.

Once the exemption request is published in the Federal Register, the public will have 30 days to comment. To do so, go to the website and enter Docket No. FMCSA-2020-0224.

FMCSA granted a similar exemption to Motion Picture Compliance Solutions last year. LL