In January 2020, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration rolled out the federal Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse. This electronic database was designed to track commercial driver’s license (and permit) holders who have tested positive for prohibited drug or alcohol use, as well as refusals to take required drug tests, and other drug and alcohol violations. When a driver who has been found to be in violation completes the required return-to-duty process, this information also is recorded in the clearinghouse.
Even going on four years later, there are still questions about the Clearinghouse. Among the most common:
Q: Do all CDL drivers need a Clearinghouse account?
A: No, only those that must consent to a full query. A full query shows all the details that exist on the driver in the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse. A full query requires a driver to log into his or her account to authorize the motor carrier’s access to the report.
A pre-employment query is a full query. Anyone seeking a CDL safety-sensitive position must be prepared to grant consent via the portal by having an account.
Annual queries performed by motor carriers on existing drivers are, at minimum, a limited query. A limited query requires the employer to have the driver grant consent outside of the portal.
The limited query simply states whether the driver has information in the system. If the driver has a record in the Clearinghouse, the motor carrier is required to request a full query to learn details. If an existing driver is in need of a full query, he or she needs to have a portal account or create one.
A driver who refuses to grant consent for either a limited or full query cannot be used in a safety-sensitive function.
Q: Is it a violation if a CDL driver refuses to provide consent to pursue DOT testing history? Is it reported to the Clearinghouse as a violation under Part 382?
A: No, it is not a violation for a driver to refuse to sign a release to pursue to DOT testing history. The information is confidential, and drivers are within their rights to say no. However, when a driver fails to provide specific written consent on the safety performance history records request and/or the CDL Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, the employer is unable to use the driver in a safety-sensitive position.
Q: Is an employer required to conduct a pre-employment query of the Clearinghouse for a driver-applicant subject to Part 382 before administering a road test (§391.31)?
A: No, an employer is not required to conduct a pre-employment query of the Clearinghouse before administering a road test to a prospective driver who is subject to 382.
Under §382.701(a), employers are required to query the Clearinghouse when hiring a driver to perform safety-sensitive functions. The road test occurs before the driver is hired, so employers may conduct a pre-employment query at the time they road test a prospective driver but are not required to do so.
A version of this story appears in the September 2023 print issue of HDT.