In 2016, the FMCSA and DOT released a final rule on the Commercial Driver’s License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse. Since then, employers have had time to get ready. Now that time is up. The compliance date for the Clearinghouse rule is Jan. 6, 2020.
The Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse
The final rule establishes a database of FMCSA drug and alcohol testing program violations by holders of commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs). The database is designed to make roads safer and to provide real-time information on violations. The database will also track CDL drivers who move from one state to another.
The Clearinghouse does not change the requirements for drug and alcohol testing in transportation workplaces. It simply creates a new way of tracking drug and alcohol violations.
Registration for the Clearinghouse began in October 2019. Starting in November, registered employers were able to purchase query plans. As of Jan. 6, 2020, use of the Clearinghouse is mandatory.
Employers of CDL drivers are required to use the Clearinghouse in two ways. First, they must report violations. Second, they must use the Clearinghouse to conduct queries. Queries are required for new drivers as part of the pre-employment driver investigation. Employers must also query the Clearinghouse at least once a year for every CDL driver who is currently employed.
Queries are not free, which is why employers need to purchase query plans. Employers must purchase the query plans themselves – consortia/third-party administrators (C/TPAs) are not allowed to purchase query plans for employers, although they can register to use the Clearinghouse. The flat rate per query is $1.25, but employers can purchase bundled plans. The queries do not expire.
Driver Consent and Registration
There are two types of queries. Full queries are required as part of the pre-employment driver investigation. Limited queries can satisfy the annual query requirement. Employers will get consent for full queries in the Clearinghouse system. Consent is also needed for limited queries, but employers do not use the Clearinghouse system to get consent.
Drivers do not necessarily have to register for the Clearinghouse. However, only drivers who have registered can see their own Clearinghouse records. Additionally, drivers will need to register in order to provide consent for full queries.
The Road Ahead
According to the FMCSA, 4,889 large trucks and buses were involved in fatal crashes in 2017. This represents a nine percent increase from 2016 and a 42 percent increase from 2009. Keeping our country’s roads safe is a top priority.
For the next three years, employers will need to check with both the Clearinghouse and previous employers to see whether there are any violations. However, as of Jan. 6, 2023, employers will only need to check with the Clearinghouse.
Need help with your commercial auto insurance and risk management program? Contact Higginbotham Insurance.