Last updated: October 2, 2023
Truckers keep trucking and time keeps rolling along—those are two facts you can count on. The Department of Transportation (DOT) brought both into focus when they announced that Friday, January 6, 2023, marks the date that employers no longer need to contact previous employers.
The date was set on the opening day of the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Association (FMCSA) Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse. The FMCSA, a division of the DOT, began operating the Clearinghouse on January 6, 2020. The FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse is a nationwide database that allows employers to determine if someone they are considering hiring has any previous drug or alcohol violations.
Up to now, employers had to submit a query to the Clearinghouse database. That hasn’t changed. However, employers were also required to contact the potential new hire’s previous employers going back for a period of at least three years searching for drug and alcohol violations.
To stock the database, the FCMSA required employers to begin reporting any drug or alcohol violations to the Clearinghouse following the protocol mandated by the DOT. The reporting began on opening day in January 2020. It had been previously determined that after a period of three years, employers could confidently query the database seeking information regarding drug and alcohol violations without the worry of anyone “slipping through the cracks.” At that point, manually contacting previous employers would no longer be required.
It was an age-old problem
Before the idea of the Clearinghouse came to fruition, drivers who received a drug or alcohol violation could apply for jobs without documenting any prior violations. It left the door open for anyone who was less than honest to lie. It was easy. The driver simply failed to list the employer they worked for at the time on their application.
Some drivers would relocate to an entirely new state to get a fresh start. They would apply for a new CDL leaving very little chance that their past would be discovered.
The solution is here
The main goal of the DOT approving the creation of the FMCSA’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse was straightforward. Maintain accurate, real-time driver records of drug and alcohol violations on a nationwide level. As of today, that goal has been reached.
Now that the Clearinghouse is self-sustaining, employers don’t have to worry about lost time and money waiting for a response from other companies. Instead, employers merely need to submit a pre-employment query to the Clearinghouse and search the database to discover:
- Positive drug or alcohol test results
- Employers direct knowledge of illegal drug or alcohol use on the job or just before beginning work for the day
- Test refusals
- Completed return-to-duty (RTD) process and follow-up testing
- Employer reports of negative return-t0-duty test results
Annual queries are still required
The DOT included a reminder that annual query requirements haven’t changed. You must conduct an annual query in the Clearinghouse at least once a year for every CDL driver in your employ. If you submitted those forms in January of last year, it’s time for you to do it again.
The annual query process is probably considered “old hat” by now. Still, it doesn’t hurt to mention that you need to obtain general consent from your drivers before submitting the annual or pre-employment queries to the Clearinghouse.