FMCSA CDL Clearinghouse is here…FINALLY
With the passing of the MAP-21 Act in 2012, Congress mandated that the FMCSA improve safety on our roads. One of the ways the FMCSA is accomplishing this mandate is to establish a Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse for CDL drivers.
Currently, drivers who have tested positive or refused to test for one employer will go to work for another employer without disclosing the violation or completing the return-to-duty process.
The purpose of the Clearinghouse is close this loophole by storing these violations in a central location and requiring employers to check for these records before handing over the keys.
Users of the Clearinghouse
The FMCSA opened registration to the Clearinghouse on September 30, 2019. Employers, Third-Party Administrators (TPAs), Medical Review Officers (MROs), Substance Abuse Professionals (SAPs), and drivers can all register for the Clearinghouse now.
The registration process can be quite complicated, as it requires two-factor authentication. In addition, employers need access to their FMCSA Portals in order to complete registration.
Registration must be complete in order to interact with the Clearinghouse, and each user will interact with the Clearinghouse differently. Below is a table of interactions by user:
|Register as a user||X||X||X||X||X|
|Manage assistants (optional)||X||X||X||X|
|Request driver consent for queries||X||X|
|Consent to full query requests||X|
|Query driver violations||X||X|
|Report on RTD initial assessment, eligibility for RTD testing||X|
|Report on RTD and follow-up testing||X||X|
Other federal agencies will also have access to the Clearinghouse database.
- Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program partner agencies will access the database for use during investigations, roadside inspections and safety audits of motor carriers.
- The National Transportation Safety Board will access the system when a driver is involved in a crash under investigation by NTSB.
- In addition, state driver licensing agencies (SDLAs) will use the database to verify a driver’s qualification to operate a CMV prior to completing any licensing transactions, including issuance, renewal, transfer, or upgrade of any commercial learner’s permit or commercial driver license. This will be optional for SDLAs until January 6, 2023, in which time it will become a requirement for SDLAs to query drivers before issuing or renewing CDLs.
Information to be Reported
The Clearinghouse will only store records pertaining to FMCSA drug and/or alcohol violations that are verified on or after January 6, 2020. Violations committed under other modes of the DOT (FAA, FRA, FTA, PHMSA, USCG) or Non-DOT company policy will not be reported to the Clearinghouse.
The table below shows records that will be reported, who reports the information, and the required timeframe in which the records need to be reported.
|Record to be Reported||Reporting User||Timeframe|
|A verified positive, adulterated, or substituted controlled substance test||MRO||2 days|
|Refusal to test, including failure to appear||Employer or TPA||3 days|
|A verified positive EBT above .039||Employer or TPA||3 days|
|Actual knowledge of illicit alcohol or drug use while operating a CMV||Employer or TPA||3 days|
|Negative Return-to-Duty test result||Employer or TPA||3 days|
|Completion of follow-up program||Employer or TPA||3 days|
|Eligibility for Return-to-Duty testing||SAP||Same business day of determination|
Clearinghouse Queries & Consent
The Clearinghouse has two query types: limited and detailed.
A limited query only tells the user whether there’s information in the Clearinghouse on a specific driver. An employer must obtain written consent to run limited queries on drivers. This consent can be a blanket consent covering all limited queries throughout a driver’s employment.
On the other hand, a detailed query returns all information that’s been reported to the Clearinghouse within a 3-year window on a specific driver. This query also displays whether the driver is eligible to perform safety-sensitive functions.
Due to the nature of information provided by a detailed query, specific, electronic consent must be given by a driver each time a detailed query is run. Drivers must give this consent by logging into the Clearinghouse.
Employers have two reasons to query the Clearinghouse: hiring a new driver and performing annual queries on current drivers.
When hiring new drivers, employers must run detailed queries to ensure the drivers are eligible to perform safety-sensitive functions. These queries should be done before performing a pre-employment drug test in order to avoid testing an ineligible driver.
Employers must also run queries on all active drivers once per year. Employers can choose to run these queries at any time throughout the year such as at consortium renewal, insurance renewal, or at the drivers’ annual reviews. These can be limited or detailed queries. If choosing to run detailed queries, employers must get the drivers’ electronic consents each year. If choosing to run limited queries, employers must be aware that if a limited query discloses that information exists, a detailed query with driver consent must be run within 24 hours of the limited query or the driver must be removed from safety-sensitive functions until eligibility is determined.
The FMCSA assesses a small fee of $1.25 for each query, limited or detailed. Employers must purchase queries through the Clearinghouse. Purchasing queries is not a responsibility that employers can delegate to TPAs. Query bundles are available to purchase to allow employers to buy queries in bulk. Purchased queries do not expire and can be carried over from year to year. Below is a table of query bundles that are available.
|# of Queries||Plan Cost|
Other Changes and Requirements Due to the Clearinghouse
The Clearinghouse has been developed to identify drivers by their CDL numbers. Every time a user reports or queries the Clearinghouse the user must identify the driver by CDL number. In order to ensure users such as MROs have access to drivers’ CDL numbers, the FMCSA will start requiring that CDL numbers and states be used to identify drivers in Step 1C of the Federal Chain of Custody Form (CCF).
Previously, employers and collection sites could use social security numbers or even randomly assigned employee IDs. However, now Part 382.123 explicitly states that the drivers’ CDL numbers must be used for FMCSA drug and alcohol tests. Employers should be aware of this new requirement and start alerting collection sites of this regulation.
The Clearinghouse will also eventually save employers from having to send drug and alcohol inquiries to previous employers. Motor carriers currently must inquire about any FMCSA drug and alcohol violations committed by a driver from previous employers over a 3-year period. With the Clearinghouse in place, employers will no longer need to do this inquiry for any previous employers the driver has worked for after January 6, 2020.
By January 6, 2023, this inquiry will be obsolete. However, it is important to note, employers will still have to request SAP recommendations and information on how many follow-up tests have been completed from previous employers for drivers who haven’t completed their programs, as that information will not be available through the Clearinghouse.
TPA Roles & Responsibilities
Employers, with the exception of owner-operators, can choose to designate a TPA to help comply with reporting and querying responsibilities. For owner-operators, a TPA must be designated to manage these responsibilities. TPAs must be registered with the Clearinghouse for employers to designate them. As with the other services employers may delegate to TPAs, employers will be held responsible for compliance. So, employers will want to ensure that their TPAs are educated and are offering these new services.