What the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse Mandate Means for Your Fleet

Published on: 11/26/19 1:39 PM

woman looking through records in an office

In 2012, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) highway bill was passed. This bill mandated the creation of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse to go into effect on January 6, 2020. The Clearinghouse was created to make sure CDL holders who have positive alcohol or drug tests, who have refused these tests, or who haven’t undergone return-to-duty rehab get registered in a national database.

By being registered in the database, CDL drivers are less able to move from state to state to job-hop. Before the Clearinghouse was established, these drug and alcohol test results were only recorded on the state level — if at all. That allowed drivers to simply move to a different state and avoid having their records following them. 

The good news is that the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse will allow you to screen all of your drivers more easily and make sure you are only hiring safe drivers. However, you should be aware of the requirements set forth by the Clearinghouse and how they might impact your fleet.

New Reporting Requirements for Employers

Employers and others who are involved in the FMCSA-mandated drug and alcohol testing programs will be required to report any positive drug and alcohol tests to the Clearinghouse. This includes blood alcohol content of 0.04 or greater, refusals to test for alcohol or drugs, and any other violations of the FMCSA’s drug and alcohol rules

Even if there aren’t any testing violations, employers must report any incidents if they have “actual knowledge” of them. With these reports, they have to file documentation that includes the description of the event, the date and time it occurred, the names and contact information of witnesses, and other evidence to prove the violation. If there isn’t any tangible evidence, the employer must give sworn testimony about the incident.

How the Database Helps Employers

All FMCSA safety-sensitive companies have to register with the Clearinghouse and identify their Consortium/Third-party administrator (C/TPA). There are two different types of searches employers can run on the Clearinghouse. Full queries require the employee’s consent to release their information, and it covers all the information the Clearinghouse has on the driver. Limited queries, on the other hand, allow employers to simply determine if the database contains any information on the driver. 

Before you hire any new drivers, you must now conduct a full query in the Clearinghouse to figure out if potential candidates have any drug or alcohol violations if they are set to perform safety-sensitive functions, such as driving a commercial vehicle. 

Employers will also be required to run limited searches on their current employees at least once a year to make sure they are still within the Clearinghouse regulations. If the limited queries return any results, a full query will be required.

All employees will also need to register with the Clearinghouse to allow for the release of records to a particular employer. 

Other Information You Should Know About the Clearinghouse

There are still some unknowns about the database, but the FMCSA has provided a lot of information about the Clearinghouse:

  • Employers must register authority with the Clearinghouse in Fall 2019
  • There will be a fee for employers to access the Clearinghouse, though the amount is yet to be decided
  • Drivers can register and view their own documents in the database at no cost
  • Drivers will receive a letter or electronic notification any time information about them is added, removed or revised
  • Employers must make sure all CDL information is in their drivers’ file and easily accessible

Employers and drivers who will be affected by the Clearinghouse include:

  • School bus drivers
  • Inter- and intrastate motor carriers, which includes passenger carriers like commercial buses
  • Limo drivers
  • Semi-truck drivers
  • City vehicle drivers, like garbage truck drivers
  • Construction equipment operators
  • Federal and state agencies that have drivers who are subject to drug and alcohol testing regulations, such as public transit drivers

This includes all part-time, full-time, backup, intermittent and international drivers.

Make Sure Your Fleet Is Protected and Safe

While this guide provides a solid foundation for understanding the new Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, it certainly doesn’t cover everything. The good news is, the FMCSA has provided a wealth of information about the Clearinghouse, and more information is being added continuously. 

While you’re making sure you are hiring safe drivers, you also need to make sure your fleet is protected against the unexpected. At Encore Protection, we offer commercial roadside assistance for all sizes of fleets, whether you have a few local delivery vans or a large number of interstate semi-trucks.

Give us a call today at (844) 636-2673 or contact us online today to learn more about our customizable roadside assistance plans.