Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse

Date: January 6, 2020

Cricket McWilliams, Risk Control Consultant/Transportation Safety and Compliance Specialist

Here’s what you need to know about the new Clearinghouse…

After more than three years in the works, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse is now live.

The Clearinghouse is a secure online database that will provide employers with real-time information about CDL driver drug and alcohol violations. Any commercial truck drivers that have tested positive for prohibited drugs or alcohol will be added to this database.

With the goal of improving highway safety, the aggregated data located within the Clearinghouse will:

  • Make it easier for employers to meet their pre-employment investigation and reporting obligations.
  • Make it more difficult for drivers to conceal drug and alcohol program violations from current or prospective employers.
  • Provide the means to ensure that drivers receive the required evaluation and treatment before performing safety-sensitive functions, such as driving a commercial motor vehicle.
  • Make it easier for the FMCSA to determine employer compliance with testing, investigation and reporting requirements.

Employers will play a pivotal role in making the Clearinghouse effective.

Required reporting

All FMCSA-regulated employers are now required to report any unfavorable drug and alcohol testing information to the Clearinghouse within three business days after the employer is informed. This includes any positive drug results, any alcohol results with a blood alcohol content greater than 0.04, refusals to test, and any other non-test violations of FMCSA’s drug and alcohol regulation.

Records of drug and alcohol program violations will remain in the Clearinghouse for five years or until the driver has completed the return-to-duty process, whichever is later.

Querying the database

As part of the new rule, employers who want to hire a new driver will now be required to query the Clearinghouse database for violations that would prohibit the drivers or prospective drivers from safely doing their job.

However, since the Clearinghouse is still so new, there is a three-year phase where employers are also required to conduct manual inquiries. That’s because the data in the Clearinghouse is still being added.

  • Starting Jan. 6, 2020 employers are required to conduct both electronic queries and traditional manual inquiries with previous employers to meet the three-year timeframe, required by FMCSA’s drug and alcohol use testing program, for checking CDL driver violation histories.
  • Starting Jan. 6, 2023, when three years of violation data are stored in the Clearinghouse, employers are no longer required to also request information from the driver’s previous FMCSA-regulated employers.

The Clearinghouse will ultimately make it faster to determine whether a potential employee has had any concerning drug or alcohol-related issues, since you no longer have to contact previous employers for this information.

In addition, employers will need to query the Clearinghouse at least once per year for each driver they currently employ. Both types of queries will require the employee's or prospect's consent to run the search.

Acting on the data

With all the Clearinghouse’s driver data now at employer’s fingertips, you’ll be required to act on the data when needed. Any driver who has violated FMCSA’s drug and alcohol program regulations should be prohibited from performing safety-sensitive duties unless the driver complies with the return-to-duties process set forth.

Employers who do not comply with the FMCSA Clearinghouse requirements are subject to civil and/or criminal penalties.

In addition to the steps above, FMCSA-regulated employers should review and revise their drug and alcohol testing policies and become familiar with the Clearinghouse requirements.

To find out more about how BITCO can work with you to ensure your workplace is safe, contact our Risk Control Department at rcc@bitco.com.

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For information purposes only. BITCO's blog content does not address all potential circumstances and is not a substitute for business, safety, or legal consultation.

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