Last updated: November 27, 2023
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Clearinghouse launches on January 6, 2020. Employers of the safety-sensitive workforce must be registered and ready to go by then as well. Registration opens in October, although the exact date hasn’t been released, employers can sign up for news and updates at the FMCSA Clearinghouse website to be notified when registration opens.
The main focus of the database is to accurately maintain driver records of drug and alcohol violations on a nationwide level. Currently, a driver who receives a violation can apply for jobs without acknowledging that they received a violation, making it easy for drivers to lie about drug and alcohol test history. The driver simply fails to list the employer in their work history. Some drivers even relocate to an entirely new state and apply for a new CDL.
The Clearinghouse will eliminate this problem.
The secure online database will allow immediate access to realtime information regarding safety-sensitive drivers who have received drug and alcohol violations pertaining to 49 CFR Part 382, Subpart B.
What data is recorded and who can see it?
There won’t be any backlogging of drug or alcohol violations. The program starts fresh on January 6, 2020. Employers report all violations from that point forward.
It’s important for employers to continue the FCMSA process currently in place regarding contacting previous employers until January 6, 2023. After that, employers only need to query the Clearinghouse.
The records retained in the Clearinghouse include:
- 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
Only FMCSA DOT violations will be reported to the Clearinghouse. Employers don’t report an in-house violation of company policy not included in the DOT protocol.
Those able to access the secure site are:
- State Driver Licensing Agencies (SDLAs)
- State law enforcement personnel
- Service Agents which includes Medical Review Officers (MROs), Substance Abuse Professionals (SAPs), and Consortia/Third Party Administrators (C/TPA)
Who is required to register?
Employers must register all applicants for DOT FMCSA covered driver positions with the Clearinghouse. Notably, FMCSA suggests that all drivers register in the database. However, drivers who never leave their current position aren’t required to register.
Additionally, drivers must register themselves if they want to view the information stored about them in the system. There will be no charge for driver access and they may log in at any time.
Covered drivers include drivers with a CDL operating on public roads and operating a truck or bus that falls under the following guidelines:
- The vehicle has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight of 26,001 lbs. or more.
- The vehicle is designed to carry 16 or more passengers — this includes the driver.
- A vehicle of any size used to transport hazardous materials that require the vehicle to be placarded for notification of such.
Therefore, employers who must register their drivers include:
- Independent trucking companies
- Moving companies
- Fuel transport companies
- Freight haulers
- For hire truckload carriers
- Foodservice companies
- Waste management companies
- Private fleets
- Motorcoach bus companies
In addition to drivers and employers, those wanting to submit queries to access driver information must register with the Clearinghouse to gain authorization. For instance, the employer representative is designated the Clearinghouse “Designated Administrator.” They, then, have the ability to register other employer representatives or C/TPA administrators to work in the Clearinghouse on their behalf.
When registration opens up in October, employers will purchase queries for a flat fee of $1.25. This is whether they request a limited or full query. Subsequently, if a limited query result indicates a violation on record, the employer may submit a full query request at no additional charge.
The FMCSA recommends that employers purchase a query plan large enough to cover the number of drivers currently employed. Bundled options are available to purchase batches of queries.
Only employers have the ability to purchase a query. C/TPAs may access accounts, but may not purchase queries on the behalf of employers.
Questions about the queries?
If you’re wondering if it’s a compliance issue, the answer is a resounding, “Yes!”
In fact, employers who don’t comply with the FMCSA Clearinghouse requirements are subject to civil and/or other criminal penalties and will be fined up to $2500 for each offense. The employer must submit the report by the end of the third business day after receiving the information.
When must a query be submitted?
Employers must submit a limited query for all new drivers. As stated above, any results returned requiring a full query will not include an additional charge.
The FMCSA requires employers to submit annual queries for all drivers employed. We recommend that you start this near the end of 2020 and then follow through each year at the same time.
Issues to report
Employers in the industry from Canada and Mexico that operate in the United States and subject to FMCSA drug and alcohol testing regulations must report violations and submit driver queries as well.
Employers are required to relay information regarding positive drug and alcohol tests, refusals to test, and actual knowledge of substance abuse at work or just prior to reporting for work. The definitions requiring a report are listed in Part § 382.107.
SAPs report the completion of the return-to-duty process, however, the employer is responsible for reporting any negative return-to-duty test results as soon as you have it on file. Moreover, employers must report the completion date of SAP required follow-up testing.
Owner-operators must register with the Clearinghouse and designate a C/TPA to report any violations rather than being able to do that yourself. Conversely, employers who utilize C/TPAs still carry the responsibility to ensure C/TPAs are making the required reports.
As stated above, drivers may register and access the database at any time free of charge. The identification number used to access the account is the driver’s CDL number. We suggest that employers implement using the CDL number for identification purposes from this point forward.
Drivers must sign a consent for full queries or the Clearinghouse won’t release the information. They can sign into the Clearinghouse to give consent. If they choose not to do so, the driver will not be hired.
If a driver receives a violation, they must sign into the Clearinghouse and select their SAP (Substance Abuse Professional) in order to start the education and treatment process. It is solely the driver’s responsibility to select their SAP.
If an employer receives information the driver disputes, the driver can complete a form to inform the FMCSA of the inaccurate information. The driver either completes the form online or sends it by US mail.
If an employee is unable to work due to the information they dispute, the FMCSA may grant an expedited review process. In that case, the matter will be resolved within 14 days. However, normally, the process can take up to 45 days.
If inaccurate information was reported, the FCMSA will notify each employer that has accessed the incorrect information of the error discovered. In addition, the Clearinghouse notifies the driver when adding, revising, or removing information. Driver notification will be sent by e-mail if one is available. If not, the driver receives notification by US mail at the address listed on the CDL.
The FMCSA requires Medical Review Officers (MROs) to report any positive DOT drug tests and any MRO determined refusals to test. They must report the information within two days of verification of the final test result. This includes reporting drivers not registered in the database.
The MRO views any results indicating an adulterated or substituted specimen as a refusal to test.
If the MRO receives information that a test result changed, they must report the change to the Clearinghouse within one business day.
FMCSA requires the MRO to report the following information regarding a DOT drug test violation:
- Test date and the date of the verified result
- Reason for the test and the test result
- Adulterated specimens are reported and include the adulterant substance and the MROs determination as to why the adulterant was used.
- Federal Drug Testing Chain of Custody Form (CCF) specimen ID number
- Driver’s name, CDL number, State of issuance, and date of birth
- Employer’s name, address, and USDOT number
Verified test results submitted by the MRO are:
- Positive results accompanied by the drug tested positive
- Refusal to test, substituted or adulterated
- Refusal based on no medical explanation due to shy bladder syndrome or the driver’s refusal to seek a medical evaluation
- Any other MRO determined refusal
The Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) will be responsible for reporting the completion of the education and treatment requirement. Afterward, the employee is eligible for return-to-duty drug testing.
The SAP reports specific information regarding the driver’s return-to-duty activities.
- Driver’s name, date of birth, CDL number, and State of issuance
- Date of the initial assessment starting the return-to-duty process
- The determined date that the driver successfully completed compliance with education and treatment requirements and is eligible for return-to-duty testing
Refusals to test
DOT collectors don’t report to the Clearinghouse if someone refuses to test.
Instead, the Designated Employer Representative (DER) is responsible for making the official determination regarding refusal to test. However, the DER must rely on documentation from the collector.
Ideally, the collector phones the DER at the time of the test refusal providing them with immediate information. Consequently, if you aren’t receiving a phone call or other documentation about refusals to test, speak to your collector about the importance of notification.
Employer determined refusals must include:
- A record of the time and date the driver was notified to appear at a testing site
- A record of the time, date, and test site location where you ordered the driver to appear
- Evidence that the employer has provided the employee with all documentation reported regarding the refusal to test
- If a refusal is based on the test subject’s admission of adulteration or substitution of the urine sample, the employer only reports the admissions made to the collector
Refusals to test include:
- Failure to appear at the collection site
- Refusing to remain at the collection site during a random or post-accident situation
- Inability to provide a specimen or to seek medical assistance afterward to determine why they could not provide a specimen
- Failure to permit a monitored or observed collection if necessary
- Refusal to comply with special instructions during an observed or monitored collection
- Failure to report for or declining a request for an additional drug test from either the employer or collector
- Not cooperating with the urine collection process in any way
- A prosthetic device is in their possession
- Admission to the collector that they have adulterated or substituted the specimen
- Failure to report for an alcohol test when directed
- Leaving the alcohol test site
- Failure to provide an adequate amount of saliva or breath
- Failing to seek a medical evaluation as to why they are unable to complete the breathalyzer test
Right to privacy
Even though the Clearinghouse doesn’t fall under HIPAA requirements, the FMCSA takes the issue of privacy very seriously. The Clearinghouse meets all Federal security standards. The FMCSA plans to monitor the effectiveness of the security protections in place.
Clearinghouse information will not be available to the public. You must be an authorized user to register and access the Clearinghouse. Users must sign in using a login.gov username and password. Moreover, login.gov requires the completion of a user verification process to ensure the proper person is using the credentials.
Drivers accessing the Clearinghouse are only able to view their own information. Again, a driver’s information will not be given to the employer or agency requesting it unless the employee consented to the release.
The information obtained by the Clearinghouse will only be used to enforce drug and alcohol testing regulations.
Things to do now
Ask your collector to begin using the CDL number for identification as soon as possible. That way any mistakes made while everyone is getting into the new groove won’t be met with a penalty. Also, make sure collectors understand the importance of notifying you of any refusal to test situations. You have a reporting deadline to consider!
Changes in your company policy, such as the addition of the CDL on the CCF form or notifying employees and prospects of your obligation to report to the Clearinghouse, can be added as amendments to your existing policy.
We’re at the ready
USAMDT can answer any questions you have and provide you with guidance to navigate through the Clearinghouse. We’ll also assist you in updating your policies. In addition, we can handle your annual query to determine any outstanding violations. We’ll notify you immediately of any findings. And, of course, our MROs are prepared to report information about positive results and refusals to test to the database.
We can handle the reporting process for owner-operators as well.
The FMCSA is taking a new route to combat drug and alcohol abuse.
USAMDT is ready to roll.