Last updated: March 1, 2021
The deadline has passed to submit annual queries or to register drivers with the FMCSA Clearinghouse. Employers in the trucking industry who hire CDL drivers are mandated to meet that requirement. If it slipped your mind, the deadline was January 6th, so if you’ve got drivers out on the road, you’re out of compliance. That means you’re in danger of facing civil and criminal penalties—which could include fines up to $2,500 per offense.
The FMCSA Clearinghouse rolled out last January providing employers of the safety-sensitive workforce with a real-time nationwide database of outstanding drug and alcohol violations. The database will eventually replace querying past employers to check for drug or alcohol violations. But, until January 6, 2023, the Department of Transportation (DOT) requires employers to continue contacting past employers in addition to querying the Clearinghouse database for violations.
Weeding out the bad actors
The ultimate goal is to rule out the possibility of a driver choosing to pick-up and move to another state. Then, they apply for a new commercial driver’s license (CDL) number rather than dealing with the return-to-duty process. They view it as “making a fresh start” but, sadly, seeking help for a drug problem probably won’t be part of the plan. Either way, not playing by the rules doesn’t constitute a “fresh start” but more so a lack of integrity.
Another ploy used by dishonest drivers is to apply for a new job without listing the employer for whom they worked when they received a violation.
The Clearinghouse will eventually eliminate both of these scenarios. If driver’s charged with a drug or alcohol violation want to drive again, they will complete the return-to-duty process.
It’s not hard to comply
If a driver fails a drug or alcohol test, employers are mandated to report it to the Clearinghouse by the close of business on the third day after receiving notification. In addition, employers are to report the following:
- Direct observation of an employee using drugs or alcohol
- Information obtained from a previous employer
- Traffic citations involving being under the influence
Before allowing a new driver to get behind the wheel, employers query the database using a partial query. If that query provides a positive result, then a full query must be submitted. This type of query provides the employer with the specifics of the violation.
It’s a brilliant plan and is sure to meet—and, perhaps, surpass—expectations but employers have to do their part. Register with the FMCSA Clearinghouse and then submit queries on all your drivers. Other than that annual task—which must be completed prior to January 6th each year to remain in compliance—employers need only make a pre-employment query when hiring a new driver.
Everyone deserves the right to safe travel. The FMCSA Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse plays an important role in maintaining safety on the roadways. It’s no secret that an impaired driver is a hazardous risk for all that come into contact with them. Sadly, though, they may not realize it until it is too late.