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Your Guide to the New FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse Rule

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On Jan. 6, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Clearinghouse went into effect. This database aims to reduce job-hopping by drivers with drug and alcohol violations. The program will track drivers who have failed or refused to take DOT drug tests.

So, what does this mean for the average trucking company? Here are answers to some common questions:

Do Drivers Need to Register?

While drivers are not required to register, they need to be registered to consent to a full query (more about queries below) of their record.

What Data Do I Need to Submit?

Employers are required to report drug and alcohol program violations, including positive test results and test refusals. Violations must be reported within three business days of the employer learning of them. Employers also need to report verification of a drivers completed return-to-duty process.

Employers only need to report DOT drug or alcohol tests to the database. Other tests, such as pre-employment hair testing, are not allowed. Do not submit violations that took place before Jan. 6, 2020.

How Long Do Records Stay in the Clearinghouse?

Records remain in the database until the return-to-duty process is complete and five years have passed since the violation. After that, the FMSCA will archive them.

When Do I Prohibit a Driver?

If a driver has violated the drug and alcohol program regulations, employers must prohibit them from performing safety-sensitive duties, unless the driver complies with the return-to-duty process (outlined in 49 CFR Part 40, Subpart O).

When Do I Perform a Full Query?

Full queries must be done in the pre-employment stage. The following information is included in a full query:

  • Driver’s name, date of birth, contact information and eligibility status
  • Information about the employer who ordered the test or reported a violation
  • Test details, violation details and return-to-duty information

When Should I Perform a Limited Query?

At least once a year, a limited query must be done on each of an employer’s drivers. If a driver has a record, a full query must be requested.

How Long Do I Keep Query Records?

Employers need to keep records of all queries and information obtained for three years.

Do I Always Need a Driver’s Consent for a Query?

Each time there’s a full query request, the driver has to log in and give consent before the information can be released. Driver consent is also required for limited queries, but not for each one. Limited query consent should be added to pre-employment paperwork.

How Much Does Each Query Cost?

The flat rate is $1.25 per query, for both limited and full queries. The cost of a “query bundle” depends on the number of queries that need to be performed. Purchased queries never expire, and extra query plans can be purchased as needed.

Can I Use a Third-Party Service?

Employers can authorize service agents to report violations and conduct queries on their behalf. This must be done during the registration process. If there is a change in service agents, employers have 10 days to update this information in the clearinghouse.

What Should I Tell my Drivers?

Take steps to make sure drivers know their responsibilities and rights. Clarify what data goes into the clearinghouse, as listed in Section 382.601(b)(12), and provide drivers the following training:

  • An explanation of the inquiries performed by employers (Section 382.701)
  • Driver procedures for getting access to the clearinghouse
  • Information on how to obtain a copy of their records (Sections 382.707, 382.709)
  • Procedures for correcting information in the database (Section 382.717)
  • Information on a driver's obligation to notify current employer(s) (in writing) of DOT testing violations that occurred under a different employer (Section 382.415)

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