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What You Need to Know About the FMCSA’s CDL Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse

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What Truckers Need to Know About the FMCSA’s CDL Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Clearinghouse began in late 2016 as a congressional mandate. Nearly three years later, registration has opened so that everybody in the trucking industry gets ready for operational implementation on January 6, 2020.

What is the FMCSA Clearinghouse?

The FMCSA Clearinghouse is a secure online database that will give 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. That includes records of positive drug or alcohol test results as well as test refusals. Also recorded in the Clearinghouse will be a driver’s completed return-to-duty (RTD) process and follow-up testing plan.That’s a huge mouthful, we know. So, let’s take in all this Commercial Driver’s License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse information piece by piece.

What Information Will Be in the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse?

Essentially drug and alcohol test results, including test refusals, for all CDL and CLP holders. Drug testing centers will be required to submit those results to the Clearinghouse. There is no fee for submissions, naturally, and no fee to register to use the FMCSA Clearinghouse.

Who’s Required to Use the FMCSA Clearinghouse?

Pretty much everybody in the commercial trucking industry. That would be employers of drivers operating commercial motor vehicles (CVAs) that require a CDL or CLP, medical review officers (MROs), substance abuse professionals (SAPs), enforcement personnel, and consortia/third-party administrators (C/TPAs). They all need to complete Clearinghouse registration to be able to access information in the database.

Drivers are not required to register for the Clearinghouse, but they might as well be. That’s because drivers need to provide electronic consent in the Clearinghouse if a current or future employer needs to conduct a full query of the driver’s record, which includes pre-employment queries beginning on January 6, 2020. Also, a driver must be registered to electronically view the information in his or her own Clearinghouse record.

Employers, similarly, will be required to query the Clearinghouse for current and future employees’ drug and alcohol violations before allowing those employees to operate a CMV on public roads. In addition, employers need to query the Clearinghouse annually for each driver they currently employ.

What Will It Cost?

Registration and submissions are free. But queries will cost you. Fees will be charged for limited and full queries. A limited query is just checking for available information, while a full query is seeing that information. Employers pay a $1.25 flat rate for one query (limited or full), or they can purchase bundles that can give them access to anywhere from two queries for $2.50 to 7,500 queries for $9,375.

When Do You Have to Start Using the Clearinghouse?

The mandatory use of the Clearinghouse officially goes into effect January 6, 2020. At that time employers must report certain drug and alcohol program violations, and they can conduct electronic queries in the Clearinghouse. Remember that manual inquiries with previous employers covering the last three years are still required.

Three years later, on January 6, 2023, the CDL Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse, as it is also known, becomes the required database for employers. By this time, employers must query only the Clearinghouse when checking off their employer requirement to identify potential drivers who have committed drug and alcohol program violations.

Drivers Can Get a Head Start

Here’s a little incentive for drivers: If you register before January 6, 2020, you can have your Clearinghouse accounts and contact preferences set up and ready to go. This way you can quickly respond to any query request from employers on or before January 6, 2020.

Need more information on the FMCSA Clearinghouse? Or do you just want to keep up to date with any news or changes as the Clearinghouse progresses? Head to the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse home page for answers.