As expected, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has extended the compliance date from Jan. 6, 2020 to Jan. 6, 2023 for when State driver licensing agencies must request information from the new federal Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse before they complete certain commercial driver's license transactions.
Be aware that this is only a partial extension. The original compliance date of Jan. 6, 2020 will remain in place for all other requirements of the final rule. In other words, there is no delay in compliance for motor carriers.
In addition, FMCSA pointed out that it will allow States the option to voluntarily request clearinghouse information beginning on Jan. 6, 2020.
“The compliance date extension allows FMCSA the time needed to complete its work on a forthcoming rulemaking to address the States' use of driver-specific information from the Clearinghouse, and time to develop the information technology platform through which States will electronically request and receive Clearinghouse information,” the agency stated in its notice of the change, posted in the Federal Register for Dec. 13.
Dan Horvath, vice president of safety policy for the American Trucking Associations, told HDT when the delay was proposed three months ago, that all of the other elements of the clearinghouse rule -- 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 – must still be complied with next month.
He said ATA was disappointed the rule won’t be implemented all at once, but added that “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.
“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.
The reason for the partial delay goes back to 2017, when the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators expressed concern about the practicalities of implementing the rulemaking.
As to why it did not just delay the whole rule, FMCSA states in its Dec. 13 notice that “Clearinghouse registration for authorized users has been underway since October 1, 2019, and FMCSA intends to make the Clearinghouse operational beginning January 6, 2020, as required by the 2016 final rule.
“The Clearinghouse represents an important step forward in improving compliance with FMCSA's drug and alcohol use testing requirements and removing drivers from the roadway until the return-to-duty process has been completed, thus enhancing highway safety,” the agency added.
More information on the clearinghouse is posted online at a dedicated FMCSA website.