Last updated: January 18, 2021
It didn’t take long to discover a wrench in the works of the FMCSA Clearinghouse website which officially opened for business on Monday, January 6th. Employers accessing the site to submit queries began experiencing delays, time outs, and crashes. Some were able to complete their queries successfully, however, a large number of them weren’t.
Moreover, the FMCSA Portal website has been experiencing delays and timeouts for nearly a week as well. Some users are finding success when they log in during off-hours such as the early morning or later in the evening.
It’s true what they say about the best-laid plans…
The FMCSA pushed hard to get the word out early regarding the new site. It’s set up to be a nationwide database containing information specifically related to alcohol and drug violations. Employers are responsible for reporting any such violations that occur on or after January 6, 2020.
The FMCSA opened pre-enrollment in mid-October of 2019 urging all employers to be registered prior to the start-up date. Many did, of course, but perhaps there were more procrastinators than the FMCSA anticipated because it’s usually when a site is visited en masse that it causes the problems that are being experienced at both the FMCSA Portal and Clearinghouse sites.
Plan B is in place
The FMCSA issued a notice stating that for the time being, if an employer experiences technical difficulties accessing the Clearinghouse making it impossible for them to conduct the required pre-employment queries, they may hire the driver solely by following previous regulations. The employer simply reaches out to previous employers that the driver has worked for over the past three years to inquire about drug or alcohol violations.
When the FMCSA is up and running at full throttle, employers will again be required to submit queries on all new drivers. They’ll continue to contact previous employers as well until January 6, 2023. At that time, the Clearinghouse database will become the only drug and alcohol violation investigation source. In other words, employers will no longer be responsible for contacting previous employers after that date.
Employers also submit an annual query for all drivers in their employ. It’s recommended that they query toward the end of the year, however, the employer is free to schedule the annual query at any time.
Clearing the way
We’re sure resolving the issue and getting the site running at optimum performance is at the top of the list. Until then, keep following the paper trail as always. Employers can allow their new drivers on the road while awaiting the previous employer’s response.
You can be sure smoothing out the bumps in the road is a top priority! Then, the FMCSA Clearinghouse will prove itself to be a mighty tool in the war against drug use. It will eliminate the possibility of a driver failing to report employers with whom they carry a drug or alcohol violation. It also wipes out the possibility of a driver moving to an entirely different state after receiving violations. They obtain an entirely new CDL (Commercial Driver’s License) number and “start fresh.”
Sadly, though, that fresh start likely didn’t include a life free of drug or alcohol abuse.
The FMCSA Clearinghouse keeps all violation records on file until properly resolved. That should give drivers with a substance abuse problem a push in the right direction.