Implemented on January 6, 2020, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is still a fairly new development for the trucking industry. As such, most truck drivers and their employers are still getting used to the requirements of the Clearinghouse. Read on to learn more about the Clearinghouse database and what it means for you.
The FMCSA Clearinghouse database is an electronic database recently put in place for the trucking industry. This new Clearinghouse database allows the FMCSA and Department of Transportation (DOT) to monitor and track any infringements upon their drug and alcohol policies. Employers and drivers can view records of drug and alcohol program violations within the Clearinghouse.
The Clearinghouse database contains records of Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) drivers’ past drug and alcohol violations. These infractions stay on a driver’s Clearinghouse record for five years, or as long as it takes the driver in question to complete the return-to-duty process and follow-up testing.
So, why did the FMCSA implement the Clearinghouse anyway? What benefits does it hold for drivers, their employers, and the trucking industry as a whole? The Clearinghouse and its policies are not arbitrary—here are a few benefits of the Clearinghouse.
One of the main reasons the Clearinghouse was created was to close a loophole that some drivers took advantage of. In the past, if a commercial driver violated the drug and alcohol policy, it was not too difficult for them to lie about their test results and get a job with another carrier. Since the implementation of the Clearinghouse, which tracks substance violations, this feat is far more difficult, if not impossible.
Because drivers know violations of drug and alcohol standards will be harder to get away with, they will be less likely to violate the policies in the first place. Because of this, the Clearinghouse is useful for reducing drug and alcohol use among drivers.
An accident in a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) is a serious matter that puts both truck drivers and others on the road in danger. Often, illegal drug and alcohol use is the source of these accidents. With lowered drug and alcohol use and reduced employment rates of drivers with outstanding violations, the road is a much safer place.
Many requirements come along with the benefits of the Clearinghouse. These requirements are mainly relevant to employers of CDL drivers, but it’s helpful for drivers to be aware of them, too. Read on to learn the specific actions employers must take to remain compliant with the Clearinghouse.
The Clearinghouse rule is a Clearinghouse policy that all employers of CDL drivers must follow. The rule states that all employers, medical review officers (MRO), consortia/third party administrators (C/TPA), and substance abuse professionals (SAP) must report any violations of the FMCSA and DOT drug and alcohol testing policies to the Clearinghouse. This includes positive drug and alcohol test results, refusals to test, “actual knowledge” violations (in which an employer has direct knowledge of a driver’s substance abuse), and results from return-to-duty and follow-up testing.
In addition to reporting relevant information, employers must submit pre-employment queries to the Clearinghouse for potential CDL driver hires. These queries are full queries that will allow employers to view a full, specific record of that driver’s drug and alcohol violations from the past five years. Prior to performing that query, the queried driver must log into their Clearinghouse account and grant their consent to the query. Only after a pre-employment query has been conducted can a driver operate a CMV for that employer.
Employers must also perform annual queries of currently employed CDL drivers. Unlike pre-employment queries, these queries may be either limited or full queries. Limited queries do not require a driver’s consent—they allow employers to see whether a driver has any new violations since the last query, but not the specifics of the violation.
For the trucking industry, the implementation of the Clearinghouse is a big change, but who does it affect? Find out more about the Clearinghouse database and what it means for you as an employer, CDL driver, or non-CDL driver.
In terms of requirements, the Clearinghouse undoubtedly has the biggest impact on employers of CDL drivers. To stay FMCSA and DOT compliant, employers must register with the Clearinghouse and fulfill the above requirements of submitting information to the database and performing queries as needed.
CDL drivers are not required to register with the Clearinghouse but may register and view their records if they so choose. The exception to this rule is that CDL drivers will be required to register if they are applying for a position at a new company and need to consent to a full query.
The Clearinghouse was designed for CDL drivers and their employers, so its requirements don’t apply to non-CDL drivers. Employers are not required to submit queries with the Clearinghouse for non-CDL drivers but should still conduct background checks in accordance with other FMCSA standards.
While drivers who use it need not pay, employers will be charged a fee for performing queries within the Clearinghouse. The flat fee for a single query is $1.25, but employers can also purchase bundle packages from the FMCSA to cover all the drivers at a company.
Here at Labworks USA, we understand that DOT compliance, including the Clearinghouse, can be hard to navigate. Applying with a DOT drug testing consortium makes the task much easier. Labworks USA can help you manage the detailed requirements of the Clearinghouse and DOT drug and alcohol testing. Whether you need someone to help you register your company and drivers with the Clearinghouse or to submit the appropriate queries and reports for you, Labworks USA will walk by your side every step of the way.
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