On Sept. 6, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced it is proposing a partial compliance delay for certain requirements of its final rule establishing a federal Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse.
However, the proposed delay will not affect compliance with the rule by motor carriers.
If the proposed extension is adopted, which likely it will be, the original compliance date of January 6, 2020 will remain in place for all other requirements of the final rule. In other words, there is no extension proposed-- at this point anyway-- to delay compliance for motor carriers.
The proposed delay is focused strictly on state driver licensing agencies. FMCSA wants to extend the compliance date from Jan. 6 2020 until Jan. 6 2023 for when States must request information from the Clearinghouse (i.e. “query the Clearinghouse”) before completing certain commercial driver's license transactions.
“This proposed delay of the States' query requirement… is necessary to allow the agency time to complete its forthcoming rulemaking to address the SDLAs' access to and use of driver-specific information from the Clearinghouse,” the agency states in its Federal Register notice.
But there is an escape clause to that. The extension proposal would allow States the option to voluntarily request Clearinghouse information beginning on Jan. 6, 2020.
According to FMCSA, the workaround for state driver licensing agencies under the proposal would be that, beginning on Jan. 6, 2020, “SDLAs wishing to access a CDL applicant's drug or alcohol violation information may do so by registering in the Clearinghouse as an authorized user and logging in to view the individual's record. This optional access to the Clearinghouse would be exercised solely at the States' discretion.
Dan Horvath, vice president of safety policy for the American Trucking Associations told HDT that the proposed delay applies to only one narrow aspect of the clearinghouse process -- requiring state driver license agencies to perform a query search when a driver renews his/her CDL or performs any other action on their CDL.
However, he emphasized that all of the other requirements -- including the requirements that all motor carriers query the clearinghouse when hiring a driver and annually thereafter, and the requirements for Medical Review Officers to report violations -- will retain the January 2020 compliance date.
“While we are disappointed the rule won’t be implemented in its entirety, we understand the agency needing additional time to work with all of the states to ensure the proper procedures are in place at the state level,” Horvath remarked.
“We are pleased that all other aspects of the final rule will be implemented on time, and the primary requirement that testing violations be reported to a clearinghouse that carriers must search will remain in place,” he added.
David Heller, vice president of government affairs for the Truckload Carriers Association also told HDT that the proposed delay for State agency compliance does not take away from the rule’s overall positive impact.
“TCA continues to support the development of a national drug clearinghouse that can provide information on a driver’s positive drug or alcohol test results,” Heller said. “While this notice brings about a delay on the state driver’s licensing agency aspect to the rule and their participation, the compliance date for carrier involvement to query current and prospective drivers remains in place.
He added that “as a zero-tolerance industry when it comes to operating commercial motor vehicles while under the influence, it is imperative that our membership and the industry as a whole be exposed to a database that would accurately reflect the potential drug usage of our nation’s driving population in an unyielding effort to create a drug free workplace.”
Lane Kidd, managing director of the Trucking Alliance, told HDT the trucking-safety advocacy group was not happy with the proposed delay.
"Consider that Congress directed FMCSA to implement a drug and alcohol clearinghouse in 2012, seven years ago and here we are, after numerous delays, and FMCSA still cannot figure out how to fully meet its congressional mandate,” Kidd said. “FMCSA’s failure means thousands of drug impaired truck drivers go undetected and operating on the nation’s highways, endangering the public."
The back story as to why FMCSA is aiming to extend, albeit partially, its own compliance date extends back to 2017. That’s when the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators raised concerns about the practicalities of implementing the rulemaking.
Per FMCSA, some of the concerns AAMVA raised in 2017 were:
- What does FMCSA intend that the states do with information they receive from the Clearinghouse?
- What specific information would states receive in response to a request for information about an individual CDL holder or applicant?
- What privacy and data controls will be applied to the transmission of Clearinghouse information to SDLAs?
- How would an erroneous Clearinghouse record be corrected?
- What are the cost implications for the SDLAs?
FMCSA also stated that it will provide operational guidance on Clearinghouse registration for all authorized users in the coming weeks.
Comments on the proposed change announced on Sept. 6 must be received on or before October 7, 2019.
Comments on Docket Number FMCSA-2019-0120 may be submitted using any of these methods:
- Federal eRulemaking Portal: Follow the online instructions.
- Mail: Docket Management Facility, U.S. Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, West Building, Ground Floor, Room W12-140, Washington, DC 20590-0001.
- Courier: West Building, Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, DC, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.
- Fax: 202-493-225