Carriers may want to start registering to query the new Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse now instead...

Carriers may want to start registering to query the new Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse now instead of waiting for it to become mandatory to do so in January.

Photo: Quest Diagnostics

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has opened registration for the new Commercial Driver’s License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, which is aimed at preventing drivers from job-hopping to avoid the impact of failed drug tests. This is a key step in preparation for Jan. 6, 2020, when use of the clearinghouse will become mandatory to report and query information about driver drug and alcohol program violations by CDL holders.

Starting on the January compliance date, employers will have to conduct both electronic queries within the clearinghouse and manual inquiries with previous employers to cover the preceding three years of a CDL holder’s history. But as of Jan. 6, 2023, employers will only have to query the clearinghouse and no longer make manual inquiries.

To help speed that compliance process, FMCSA said CDL holders, employers, medical review officers, and substance abuse professionals can now register for the clearinghouse and crease a secure online user account by going to a dedicated website.

The clearinghouse, FMCSA said, is “a secure online database that will allow FMCSA, CMV employers, state driver licensing agencies, and law enforcement officials to identify – in real-time – CDL drivers who have violated federal drug and alcohol testing program requirements, and thereby improve safety on our nation’s roads.”

Registration will be required to access the clearinghouse once it is implemented on Jan. 6. “To access the clearinghouse, authorized users must register,” the agency emphasized.” Such users include:

  • Drivers who hold a commercial driver’s license (CDL) or commercial learner’s permit (CLP)
  • Employers of CDL drivers, including those who employ themselves as CDL drivers (owner-operators), typically as a single-driver operation
  • Consortia/third-party administrators (C/TPAs)
  • Medical review officers (MROs)
  • Substance abuse professionals (SAPs)

FMCSA stated that CDL holders are “not required to immediately register for the clearinghouse but will need to register to respond to an employer’s request for consent prior to a pre-employment query or other full query being conducted.”

The agency noted that its clearinghouse website contains such resources as user brochures and instructional aids with step-by-step registration instructions for all users.

There will be no cost to register with the clearinghouse, but motor carrier swill be charged $1.25 for each required query. However, per FMCSA, eventually carriers will be able to buy “query plans” that will lower the per-transaction fee.

“As this Congressional mandate is enacted, FMCSA’s goal is to ensure drivers, employers, and everyone who will be using the clearinghouse are registered as efficiently and effectively as possible,” said FMCSA Administrator Raymond P. Martinez. “FMCSA is here to be helpful during this implementation, and we strongly encourage all CMV stakeholders to get registered in the clearinghouse now.”

An Oct. 1 email alert issued by the Scopelitis Law Firm recommends that given the impending compliance date, “carriers should begin taking steps to ensure they are prepared to utilize the clearinghouse.”

Scopelitis recommends not only registering with the clearinghouse now but also:

  • Ensuring that federally mandated drug and alcohol testing policies contain all necessary details about the clearinghouse
  • Developing procedures for running initial queries for prospective drivers and annual queries for existing drivers
  • Communicating with drivers to ensure that they will be properly registered through the clearinghouse, if required

Also, while FMCSA has proposed a partial compliance delay of certain clearinghouse requirements for state driver licensing agencies, there is no extension proposed to delay compliance for motor carriers.

About the author
David Cullen

David Cullen

[Former] Business/Washington Contributing Editor

David Cullen comments on the positive and negative factors impacting trucking – from the latest government regulations and policy initiatives coming out of Washington DC to the array of business and societal pressures that also determine what truck-fleet managers must do to ensure their operations keep on driving ahead.

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