Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse

The Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse Mandate: How to Prepare

Jan. 6, 2020 is a big day. It’s when motor carriers are required to begin using the FMCSA’s Commercial Driver’s License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse to screen new drivers during pre-hire and all drivers annually. Why the new procedures? The FMCSA seeks to eliminate almost 900 crashes annually resulting in $196 million in total benefit to society. The stakes are definitely high.

Motor Carrier Responsibilities

The burden on carriers will be significant.

  • Registration

Every motor carrier is required to register with the clearinghouse and use its login credentials to access driver information pre-hire and annually. Carriers must provide a list of authorized users and update it annually. If utilizing a consortia/third-party administrator or any other service agents to comply with drug and alcohol program rules, they should be identified and also registered. Updates to this information are required within 10 days of change.

  • Alcohol and Controlled Substance Inquiries From Previous Employers

Initially, the process still requires carriers to request alcohol and controlled substance information from all carriers who employed the driver in the last three years. Additionally, a full query will also be required prior to any safety-sensitive job functions, including CMV operation. Full queries will return all information contained in the clearinghouse related to that driver, such as:

    • Positive drug tests
    • Refusals to test
    • Whether the driver has completed the return-to-duty process, if required

Beginning Jan. 6, 2023, however, contacting previous employers will no longer be required. Exceptions to that requirement include if the employer forgoes the pre-employment drug testing requirements under exception or if the driver has operated a CMV in other regulated modes in the previous three years.

  • Annual Query Requirement

The new Clearinghouse requires carriers to request an annual limited query for all their CDL drivers. Limited queries tell carriers whether any information about the driver exists in the clearinghouse. If information exists, carriers must request a full query within 24 hours and review the information to determine if the driver is eligible to operate a CMV.

  • Driver Consent

All queries require driver consent. Carriers will only be able to request consent for a full query through the clearinghouse. This means both the motor carrier and the driver must register with the clearinghouse to complete the consent process. Consent for a limited query can be obtained via a document signed by the driver and maintained by the motor carrier. FMCSA plans to provide sample language that carriers can use in this form. Consent for a limited query can be combined with other consent forms.

  • Data Upload Requirement

The new procedure requires carriers to upload the following data to the clearinghouse within three business days of occurrence:

    • Positive alcohol confirmation tests
    • Refusals to test for alcohol
    • Refusals to test for drugs not requiring an MRO determination
    • Actual knowledge of drug use
    • Negative return-to-duty tests
    • The completion of follow-up testing
  • Record Retention

Employers must:

    • Maintain records of all drug and alcohol violations for a minimum of five years
    • Keep records of all queries made
    • Retain the results of those queries until Jan. 6, 2023

Subsequently, a valid clearinghouse registration will fulfill the query record-keeping requirement.

Where to Get More Information

With the Jan. 6 deadline looming, carriers need all the information they can get to transition into the new regulations as seamlessly as possible.

Want more information on compliance and the operational challenges for motor carriers and drivers? Download the free Spireon report “The Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse — FMCSA’s Next Mandate on the Motor Carrier Industry” by Sean Garney, vice president at Scopelitis Transportation Consulting.

Get It Now

For the latest on the CDL Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, including an FAQ and query plan pricing, visit the FMCSA clearinghouse website.

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