Last updated: January 25, 2021
Things got off to a pretty rough start. Still, the FMCSA Clearinghouse is going to be a valuable resource for employers. The goal of the database is to provide employers with up-to-date information pertaining to outstanding drug and alcohol violations. The nationwide database will eliminate a couple of long-standing problems that have allowed drivers to beat the system.
- Drivers will no longer be able to simply not include an employer on the previous employment section of an application.
- Drivers can’t pack up and move to a different state, apply for an entirely new CDL, and make a “fresh start.”
Drug and alcohol violations will remain active in the database until they have been properly resolved.
The site began experiencing problems on opening day causing the FMCSA to issue a statement notifying employers that if they can’t access the site, they’re to contact previous employers to inquire about drug or alcohol violations via the regulations currently in place. Drivers can work in the interim. If a previous employer reports a drug or alcohol violation, they’re removed from service immediately.
Once the FMCSA notifies us that the website issue has been resolved, employers will continue to contact previous employers as always until January 6, 2023. By that time, there shouldn’t be any information floating around that hasn’t been entered. Until then, though, we double up and query the database and continue to follow the old regulation as usual.
Are you questioning queries?
Employers and drivers must register with the FMCSA Clearinghouse prior to searching the database. All new hires must sign a consent form allowing the employer to query the Clearinghouse. If there aren’t any outstanding drug or alcohol violations discovered, the driver can start work. If something shows up on the query, the driver can’t be hired.
The potential driver must successfully complete the return-to-duty process before being allowed back on the road.
In addition to submitting a query on all potential new hires, employers must:
- Submit annual queries for all drivers in their employ
- Report positive alcohol test results, refusals to test, and any actual knowledge of impairment
- Report negative return-to-duty test results and the completion of all tests conducted during the probationary period upon returning to work
- Update policies and education programs to notify drivers of the information reported
Technically, your policies and programs need to reflect the changes at this point. Still, it doesn’t hurt to reiterate all of your responsibilities as an employer. Failure to comply with any of them can result in civil and/or criminal penalties of up to $2,500 for each offense—nobody wants to deal with that!
You don’t have to do it alone
MROs (Medical Review Officers) or C/TPAs (Consortium/Third Party Administrators) may access the database on your behalf after you have registered them on the site. However, ultimately, the responsibility to ascertain that you’re in compliance falls on you.
The cost per query is $1.25. Initially, employers submit a limited query to determine if there is information pertaining to drug or alcohol violations on file. If the query returns showing information is available, the employer must request a full query. There’s no additional charge for them to do so. Furthermore, large companies can purchase queries in bulk to further reduce the expense.
There are deadlines for reporting violations and other stipulations that your MRO or C/TPA will be aware of as well.
Owner-Operators aren’t off the hook
Even though you work for yourself, as a regulated motor carrier you need to get with the program. You must register with the Clearinghouse, however, you can’t submit your own drug testing information. Register your MRO professional or consortium. From that point forward, they act on your behalf following the regulations in place for them.
- Register online at the FMCSA Clearinghouse website
- Indicate you are an Owner-Operator which includes documenting your CDL number, the state of issue, and your date of birth.
- Register your MRO or C/TPA
- Purchase your queries—you’ll need two. This will show up as 2 query credits and are necessary so that when your MRO or C/TPA runs a query on you throughout the year it will go through properly.
- Before you can register with an SAP (Substance Abuse Professional), they must already be registered in the database as a credentialed SAP. They will be responsible for reporting assessment and completion dates as well as noting when a driver is eligible for return-to-duty testing.
Please, don’t take offense
Of course, the odds are that you’ll never need an SAP. We realize that as a responsible Owner-Operator, you would never jeopardize your life or the lives of others by getting behind the wheel of your rig or any vehicle if you’re impaired in any way.
We’re just here to get the information out.
SAPs are also responsible for reporting any actual knowledge of impairment that includes things like getting a DUI while operating a commercial motor vehicle or any other actual knowledge of drug or alcohol use.
In light of the start-up problems, if you’ve been putting off registering on the Clearinghouse site, today may not be the day. However, once we get the all-clear, it only takes a few minutes to get the job done. Being in compliance is important to keep you on the road, avoid fines, and you’ll be doing your part in making the road a safer place for everyone.
Safety first is the best rule of thumb
The Department of Transportation (DOT) was instituted to ensure the public safe travels whether they’re on the road, in the air, or at sea. The FMCSA is responsible for regulating the trucking industry.
Whether you’re a large company operating out of a major transportation hub like Atlanta or operating your business from a small town with a population less than 1,000 if you drive a commercial vehicle that requires you to register with the FMCSA, registering with the Clearinghouse is your responsibility. No matter where you’re located or how large your company is—or isn’t—we’re prepared to take that responsibility off your hands if you’d like us too.
Ultimately, the DOT requires drug testing for safety’s sake. There’s no doubt that using drugs and alcohol impairs the driver. There’s a lot to contend with when you’re on the road. Drivers in small vehicles hide in your blind spot or pull in front of you without one thought as to how long it can take to slow your rig down to accommodate them. Adverse weather conditions are notorious for causing accidents as well.
Whatever the reason, hazardous driving conditions can arise at any moment in time. Drivers need their wits about them at all times to stay focused on the task at hand.