What is the FMCSA Clearinghouse?
Since the early 1990s, the Department of Transportation (DOT) has used drug and alcohol testing to monitor safety-sensitive transportation employees to ensure our Nation’s safety. To further enhance public safety, congress mandated the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a mode of the DOT, to launch a Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse by January 6, 2020.
The Clearinghouse is a secure online database that gives employers, the FMCSA, State Driver Licensing Agencies (SDLAs), and State law enforcement personnel real-time information about commercial driver’s license (CDL) and commercial learner’s permit (CLP) holders’ drug and alcohol program violations including test refusals and actual knowledge as noted in DOT 49 CFR Part 382, Subpart B. A failed DOT drug or alcohol test and other possible violations stay in the FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse until the employee successfully complies with the Return-to-Duty (RTD) process, which includes the DOT qualified Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) process, a negative RTD test and successful completion of the entire follow-up testing schedule by the driver. After that point, the violation stays in the Clearinghouse for an additional five years.
What are employers required to do?
All employers with a USDOT Number are required to register with the FMCSA Clearinghouse and should verify that their information is up to date. Once you are registered, employers are required to:
Consent & Query: Employers must purchase a query plan in order to conduct full and limited queries. Full (pre-employment) query checks if the prospective employees/drivers are prohibited from performing safety-sensitive functions, such as operating CMV’s, due to an unresolved drug and alcohol program violation. Full queries require electronic consent by the employee/driver, which can be requested within the Clearinghouse portal.
In addition to DOT 49 CFR Part 40 and Clearinghouse responsibilities to be conducted, you or your designated C/TPA(s) must also conduct both electronic queries in the Clearinghouse and manual, offline inquiries to previous employers for pre-employment driver investigations until January 6, 2023. Following this date, three years of Clearinghouse data will be available, and only electronic queries will be required. This requirement is in addition to DOT 49 CFR Part 40.25, obtaining written consent from the employee seeking safe-sensitive position. For all other drivers, limited annual queries are required once a year. Limited queries are paper consents and you must manage this piece, unlike the full queries.
Report: Employers are required to report all employee drug and alcohol violations. This will include a verified positive drug test which you designate to your Medical Review Officer (MRO), alcohol test results with a concentration of .04 or greater, refusals to take a DOT drug or alcohol test, as well as, actual knowledge of a violation. This information must be reported by the close of the third business day after you are informed.
In addition, the MRO that you designate in the Clearinghouse will report verified positive drug, adulterated or substituted controlled substances test result; or refusal-to-test determinations for controlled substances tests. MRO’s must report into the Clearinghouse within 2 business days and they have 1 day to change something that already reports.
Lastly, after an employee has successfully completed the SAP portion in the RTD process, employers will report the date of the negative RTD test and the last date of the successful completion of a driver’s entire follow-up testing plan provided to you by the SAP.
When is an employer obligated to conduct annual queries?
By January 5, 2021, employers must conduct their first annual query of all CDL drivers and permit holders they employ. This requirement is tracked on a rolling 12-month basis. The one-year requirement resets each time a query is conducted on the driver. For example, if a query is conducted for a driver on October 1, 2020, it is not required again until October 2, 2020 to meet the requirement.
A limited query satisfies the annual query to meet the requirement. Employers must obtain general consent from drivers before conducting limited queries in the Clearinghouse. You can download a sample limited query consent form here.
The Clearinghouse will improve safety on our Nation’s roadways by giving employers access to information they need to make informed safety decisions about when current or prospective drivers with drug and alcohol violations can safely resume safety-sensitive functions after completing the required RTD process.
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