Action Required: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is launching their Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse early next year, and all employers with Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) drivers covered under 49 CFR Part 40 will be required to use it.

The Clearinghouse will contain information pertaining to violations of Department of Transportation (DOT) drug and alcohol rules for holders of CDLs. Organizations which are currently required to comply with drug and alcohol testing requirements for CDL drivers must register by January 6, 2020.

While the site is designed to simplify accessing and tracking records for drivers, new systems can be difficult to maneuver. Here are some helpful tips for those using the system:

Action you should take

Employers with CDL drivers covered under 49 CFR Part 40 should visit the FMCSA website and register for the Clearinghouse prior to January 6, 2020. The page also contains a wealth of information for employers and drivers, so we recommend using it as an opportunity to brush up on your reporting knowledge.

Users of the system will include:

  • Employers: report drug and alcohol violations, check into prospective CDL driving employees as part of the hiring process, conduct annual inquiries on existing employees
  • CDL drivers: view their own records, provide consent, select an SAP, correct inaccurate information
  • Medical Review Officers (MRO): report positive tests and refusals
  • Substance Abuse Professionals (SAP): report return-to-duty (RTD) initial assessments and eligibility status for RTD testing
  • Consortiums/Third-Party Administrators: report violations and refusals on behalf of the employer
  • State Driving Licensing Agencies: make queries prior to completing licensing transactions

Simplifying the inquiry process

One of the significant benefits of the Clearinghouse for employers will be a simpler drug and alcohol inquiry process for prospective CDL drivers.

Currently, employers must inquire to the CDL driver’s previous employers to determine if there were any violations of FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Regulations, and check the current status of any drivers that had past issues. Many previous employers are not responsive to receiving a letter or email for an inquiry, so obtaining accurate information is difficult.

Starting January 6, 2020, the transition toward using the Clearinghouse will begin, and employers will be required to query the database for this information, while continuing to make an inquiry to the previous employer. After January 6, 2023, only the Clearinghouse inquiry will need to be made.

Violations in the Clearinghouse database will include reporting/remain on duty with alcohol concentration of 0.04 or greater, or while using any drug specified in the regulations, alcohol use within four hours of performing a safety sensitive function, using alcohol within eight hours of an accident or prior to the post-accident test, testing positive for a specified drug, or refusing to submit to a required test.

Enhancing highway safety

According to the DOT the Clearinghouse will help to enhance highway safety in the following ways:

  • Easier access and tracking of required drug and alcohol records for DOT compliance
  • Simpler for employers to meet pre-employment investigation and reporting obligation
  • Greater transparency of drivers’ drug and alcohol program violations
  • Comprehensive system to help roadside inspectors and other law enforcement personnel ensure drivers receive required evaluation and treatment before performing safety-sensitive functions, such as driving a CDL regulated commercial motor vehicle (CMV)
  • Clear FMSCA determination for employers’ compliance with testing, investigation, and reporting requirements

Takeaway:

For employers with CDL drivers on staff, participation in the FMSCA Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse is not optional. Registration and use of this system is a requirement of all employers with CDL drivers covered under 49 CFR Part 40. It is also required that drivers provide a consent form for the release of their drug and alcohol records in the system. In the end, the Clearinghouse is designed to simplify inquiries and manage DOT drug and alcohol compliance and ultimately make our roads safer.

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Robert Tenhagen is a risk manager for M3 Insurance. He partners with construction organizations of all types to proactively manage their risks and assist others with DOT and fleet safety needs.

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