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The Perfect Storm For Trucking Safety Compliance: ELD, CDL Clearinghouse, and Random Drug Testing

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The Perfect Storm For Trucking Safety Compliance: ELD, CDL Clearinghouse, and Random Drug Testing

Written by Lucas Kibby, CleanFleet

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has been working hard to help keep the roads safer. In the last couple of years, there have been three big regulatory changes that are shaking the trucking industry hard, and they all are hitting the industry at the same time.

This perfect storm will cause mass confusion for companies, drivers, consortiums/TPAs, drug testing collection sites, and DOT inspectors and auditors.

These changes include the CDL Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, electronic logging device (ELD) full-compliance, and expanded DOT-5 drug testing panel.


ELD Full Compliance and AOBRD Transition

The ELD transition has been the most talked about regulatory change that requires companies and drivers to purchase, use, and manage electronic logs, versus paper logs, to track hours of service and drive time with an in-cab telematics device.

The trucking industry has had a decades long problem of drivers cheating or manipulating paper logs in order to extend their drive-time. The ELD was mandated to help control this problem, catch bad actors, and keep the roads safer.

What really happened was the ELD mandate highlighted that hours of service rules were too strict, companies and drivers are still finding ways to manipulate logs, and the ELD self-certification process was a joke as dozens of ELD providers are creating devices that do not meet regulatory compliance.

Now, as the grandfather clause that allowed companies to use older AOBRDs ends, many owner-operators or large fleets are waiting for the last minute to transition to an ELD or will wait until they are caught and fined for being out-of-compliance.

Roadside inspectors and DOT auditors are taking the brunt of this ELD transition as they deal with drivers that don’t know their devices, drivers that are being difficult, and trying to decide how to catch the bad-acting companies.

However, now that all companies have, or will have, ELDs, some fleets are asking what else they can do with that platform. A fleet’s back-office to manage electronic logging devices (ELDs) have been given an opportunity to better manage their vehicles and drivers when it comes to audits, violations, maintenance, and more. The next year could be used to take advantage of how in-cab telematics can improving driving inefficiencies.


Expanded DOT Drug Testing Panel Will Likely Increase Random Rates Back Up To 50%

FMCSA currently has a 25% random drug testing rate of truck operators, meaning carriers will be required to randomly test 25% of their drivers in the calendar year.

As of January 1st, 2018, the DOT is testing truck drivers and other “safety-sensitive” transportation employees for the semi-synthetic opioids: hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxymorphone and oxycodone. The drugs are generally taken as pain pills.

For the random testing rate to go back up to 50%, by rule there must be one year where there is above 1% positive random testing rates among surveyed companies. The new data being submitted by companies will be 2018 drug testing results. This data will include the newly added synthetic opioids drug panel, recreational marijuana legalization in many states, and the height of the opioid crisis.

The last couple of years have been seeing positive rates float around 0.9%. Drug testing consortiums and collection sites are seeing over 1% positive rates. It seems likely that the government will announce in December or January that the random rates will go back up to 50%.

Some common delays in this DOT testing process may include getting the specimen to the lab (sometimes not overnight), MROs not receiving chains of custody and has to take extra time to obtain it, and labs taking longer to verify results due to more confirmation tests happening because of the expanded panel or the increase in the amount of tests coming into the labs.


CDL Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse Causing Confusion from Registration to Process Changes

This leads into the biggest factor of the perfect storm for trucking safety compliance: the FMCSA CDL Clearinghouse going live January 6th, 2020.

We are in-the-midst of helping thousands of clients register to the Clearinghouse. With this comes the knowledge of hearing all the questions and problems companies are having.

These include:

  • “Is this required?” – we have been explaining which CDL drivers are required to be in the CDL FMCSA Clearinghouse. This has to do with CDL drivers driving a commercial motor vehicle that is greater than 26,000 pounds of gross weight, has more than 15 seatbelts, or hauling anything that requires DOT HAZMAT placards.
  • “How much does it cost?” – Registering to the Clearinghouse is free. The only thing that costs is when, after they register, they buy “query plans” so the employer or Consortium/TPAs can run annual or pre-employment queries. These are $1.25 per query. Companies can by as many as they need ahead of time. Owner-operators should buy around 5 queries. Employers should buy as many drivers as they have plus any potential new hires for the first year of queries.
  • Problem: Adding Permissions to the FMCSA Portal to allow Clearinghouse to pull Portal data. Once companies set up a portal account, they need to log-out, log back in, and go into their dashboard to give the Clearinghouse permission to pull their portal data. This is required in the Clearinghouse registration process.
  • Problem: Companies that have set-up their FMCSA Portal login account and do not remember their user-ID, security questions, or email address associated with the account will have to call the FMCSA and prove who you are before giving you access to the portal account.
  • Problem: Haven't set-up a portal account and forgot your DOT Pin # must fill out a form. If you are a carrier before 2010, and there is old or no email or phone number, the government will have to mail you your DOT pin #, which can take 7-10 business days.

Read this article: Common Issues Registering To The FMCSA CDL Clearinghouse And How To Fix Them

Employers will also be facing new drug testing process issues once the Clearinghouse is live January 6th, 2020. Many companies are likely to send in a potential new hire for a pre-employment drug test at a collection site. However, this driver will not be registered in the Clearinghouse database. Before the driver can be tested, they will have to:

  • Register to the Clearinghouse
  • The employer will have to select the driver to request electronic consent of a query
  • The driver will need to give consent within the Clearinghouse, and then
  • The employer or their C/TPA can run a query on the driver.

After this query is done, the pre-employment drug test can continue as part of the pre-employment new-hire process.

On the DOT auditor side, after any grace-period of getting everyone registered to the Clearinghouse, auditors can look to see when a pre-employment drug test was completed and when the pre-employment Clearinghouse query was conducted. If the drug test date was BEFORE the query date, this would be out of compliance and could possibly receive a violation.

Furthermore, auditors can easily see if annual queries in the Clearinghouse on all drivers were conducted or not. If not, the company is in violation and could face fines.


What can motor carriers do about the changes?

The best thing companies and drivers can do is to educate themselves on all these regulatory changes, understand what the impacts are, and be aware of what the potential issues that can arise in the next year.

The first step is making sure you have a trusted Consortium/TPA like CleanFleet who understands the regulations and what these changes actually mean. We can handle most of your drug testing and CDL Clearinghouse needs, no matter your industry. Learn about our Consortium + Clearinghouse bundle package or give us a call today at 503-479-6082.

Another way to stay up-to-date on trucking industry regulatory changes is our annual conference. Glostone Trucking Solutions and CleanFleet have partnered up to create a full-day Trucking Safety and Compliance Conference that is FREE to all who register and attend in-person or watch our live-stream broadcast nationwide.

The is our 4th annual and first full-day conference that will be held at the Monarch Hotel in Portland, OR and broadcast live online January 31st, 2020 from 9am – 5pm PST.

This year’s main topics will include:

  • Preparing For The New FMCSA CDL Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse
  • Preparing For Your Day In Court - Preparing For A Lawsuit
  • Preparing For ELD’s In A Full Compliance World
  • Preparing For The Hours of Service Rule Changes
  • Preparing For California's Contractor Law and It’s Trucking Implications
  • Preparing For California Air Resource Board (CARB) Updates
  • Preparing For FMCSA Updates
  • Preparing For Oregon DOT Updates

Register Now or learn more:

07 Nov, 19

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