Comply with FMCSA Clearinghouse Final Rules
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) established its Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse Jan. 6, 2020. If you’ve hired new drivers since January 2020, you may be familiar with the Clearinghouse because FMCSA requires employers to conduct a full query as part of a pre-employment driver investigation. The annual limited-query requirement for current employees is coming due Jan. 5, 2021.
Here’s a refresher course on the Clearinghouse.
The Clearinghouse enables employers, the FMCSA, state driver licensing agencies and state law enforcement personnel the ability to query the secure online database, which contains information about drug and alcohol program violations by holders of CDLs.
“Specifically, information maintained in the Clearinghouse enables employers to identify drivers who commit a drug or alcohol program violation while working for one employer, but who fail to subsequently inform another employer (as required by current regulations),” reads FMCSA’s website.
Although the Clearinghouse final rule does not change existing DOT drug and alcohol testing requirements, it does require employers to report drug and alcohol violations and test refusals to the Clearinghouse, even if the driver in question has not registered for the Clearinghouse. Employers must also report actual knowledge of violations as defined in § 382.107, negative return-to-duty test results, and the dates the driver successfully completed all follow-up tests as ordered by the substance abuse professional. Results for drug or alcohol testing outside of DOT requirements may be reported to the Clearinghouse.
It’s important to note that the Clearinghouse only contains violations occurring on or after its establishment Jan. 6, 2020. According to the September 2020 Clearinghouse Monthly Summary Report (the last report available prior to this issue going to press), more than 40,000 violations had already been reported in 2020. The database will retain any records of drug and alcohol violations for five years, or until the driver has completed the return-to-duty process, whichever is later.
In addition to their reporting responsibilities, employers are required to conduct a full query during pre-employment and a limited query on each driver they employ on an annual basis, at least once within a 365-day period based on the employee’s hire date or another 12-month period determined by the employer.
The Clearinghouse maintains a record of an employer’s queries, as well as driver’s responses to consent requests, which are required for any full queries. Employers must keep records of drivers’ limited consent for three years.
Employers can register online to access the Clearinghouse, or they can designate a third-party administrator to report violations or conduct queries on their behalf. Owner-operators must designate a third-party administrator to comply with the employer’s Clearinghouse reporting requirements. As outlined on the Clearinghouse website, each query costs $1.25.
Until Jan. 6, 2023, employers are required to conduct both electronic queries in the Clearinghouse and traditional inquiries with previous employers required by § 391.23. After that date, querying the Clearinghouse alone will be sufficient.
Although annual queries are all that FMCSA requires, companies can choose to conduct queries on a more regular basis, such as biannually or quarterly. Then, if an accident occurs, it may be ideal to illustrate the steps you’ve taken to ensure drivers are not in violation.