The New FMCSA Clearinghouse is Right Around the Corner: Are you Ready?

It’s been a long time coming, but the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration’s (FMCSA’s) new Clearinghouse will go into effect starting January 6. In case you need a refresh about what this Clearinghouse is all about, here’s what it means.

The purpose of the new Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse is to flag drivers who are prohibited from operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) on public roads based on DOT drug and alcohol program violations. Essentially, the Clearinghouse will make information regarding drivers in violation more accessible to the commercial transportation industry.

To streamline this information, the FMCSA created a central database that will keep track of drivers who are in violation of the DOT’s controlled substances drug and alcohol testing program for holders of CDL’s or a commercial license permit (CLP). Drivers will have their names appear in the Clearinghouse for five years, where it is visible for all carriers and organizations in the commercial transportation industry to see.

The database will require employers regulated by FMCSA, Medical Review Officers, Substance Abuse Professionals, drug testing consortiums third party administrators, and other service agencies to report violations. Put simply, anyone who employs workers with a CDL will be required to list truck and bus drivers who have failed or refused to take drug and alcohol screening tests. When the Clearinghouse does go into effect, violations that occur on or after the Clearinghouses’ January 6 implementation will be included in the database.

So why is this Clearinghouse important? Because it essentially eliminates a loophole that allowed drivers with drug or alcohol violations on their record to find other driving opportunities without a thorough search into their background. In the past, the lack of a database for drug and alcohol screening test results meant that drivers could ‘jump ship’ and travel to another city or state if they were fired for using drugs or drinking on the job since oftentimes, information regarding their drug and alcohol violations were not easily accessible.

This Clearinghouse changes all of that.

Now, employers will be able to access an organized system that is updated in real-time to see whether or not a potential new hire has failed or refused to take a drug and alcohol screening test. The database will also check the status on completion of Return-to-Duty (RTD) process with a Substance Abuse Professional. Basically, a driver will need to meet necessary requirements set by the DOT.

Now, while employers with drivers operating CMVs that require CDLs or CLPs are required to use the Clearinghouse, who else will have access to the database? Most organizations associated with the transportation industry, including:

  • Consortia/Third-Party Administrators (C/TPAs)
  • Medical Review Officers (MROs)
  • Substance Abuse Professionals (SAPs)
  • State Driver Licensing Agencies (SDLAs)
  • Federal Enforcement Personnel

Now, you’ll notice drivers are not on the list. So, what about them? If employers and organizations have access to information about them, what rights do they have?

While drivers don’t need to technically be registered for the Clearinghouse, it’s still a good idea to be registered. Drivers who register will be able to see the same exact information that everyone else can if their name appears in the database. If a driver finds any discrepancies about their record, they have the opportunity to contest.

If you have questions about the specifics of this Clearinghouse, check out the FMCSA Clearinghouse page. It’s a great resource and there is a FAQ section that is constantly updated to help ‘put you in the know’ for what’s to come.

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