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Beginning January 6, 2020, all employers of commercial motor vehicle (CMV) operators must comply with a new federal requirement: the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse (the Clearinghouse). These employers, which include most municipalities, are required to participate in various ways to help the Clearinghouse fulfill its potential. PACIF Loss Control is providing the guidance below to assist you in complying.

The Clearinghouse is a secure nationwide online database that will provide access to information ensuring that CDL drivers who commit drug or alcohol violations complete the necessary steps before getting back behind the wheel. It was developed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to improve highway safety by helping employers, FMCSA, and licensing and law enforcement agencies in every state quickly and confidently identify CDL drivers who are not legally permitted to operate CMVs due to drug and alcohol violations.

The Clearinghouse only lists CDL holders who have been tested under FMCSA authority. It became available for user registration in late October 2019, and it will be ready for full use on Monday, January 6, 2020.

This information is important for municipal employers and their Designated Employer Representatives (DERs) to understand and act on.

Before January 6: Register as an Employer

Municipal employers of CMV drivers must register with the Clearinghouse by January 6, 2020. Register at clearinghouse.fmcsa.dot.gov/ referring, if necessary, to FMCSA’s step-by step instructions at clearinghouse.fmcsa.dot.gov/Resource/Index/Registration-Employer-Instructions.

Section 5 of the Clearinghouse registration process (step 16 in the step-by step instructions), asks you to designate your consortium/third-party administrator. Until you understand its full purpose, please skip section 5. This section is not for designating the company that performs testing: it is for designating a company that would assist you with your queries and reporting certain violations or return-to-duty information as required by the new regulation (summarized in the bullets below).

Starting January 6: Use the Clearinghouse As Required

Employers have specific responsibilities that you will want to be prepared to act on. Here is a summary of what you need to do consistently. The PACIF CMV Operations Toolkit has been updated to support your required query and reporting activities.

  • During the hiring process, complete an initial full query for every new hire. A full query provides you with detailed information about any resolved or unresolved violations in a driver’s Clearinghouse record. An unresolved violation disqualifies the driver from operating a CMV.
  • Every year, complete a limited query on each of your existing drivers. A limited query searches for the presence of information in the queried driver’s Clearinghouse record. If any limited query returns a result, you must complete a full query within 24 hours — or the driver must be removed from safety sensitive duties. You will only be charged once for both queries.
  • Obtain the driver’s consent before making a query. For limited queries, consent will be in writing and can be on file and in effect for the duration of employment. For every full query, you will need to request and obtain the driver’s specific electronic consent through the Clearinghouse.
  • Purchase a Query Plan for the number of queries you expect to complete in a calendar year. For example, if you have four drivers and tend to hire one driver per year, a query bundle of five should suffice. Queries cost $1.25 each, and balances will roll over at the end of the year.
  • Report any drivers who refuse to submit to a DOT test for drugs or alcohol.
  • Report “negative” test results from Return To Duty tests. Other “negative” test results do not need to be reported.
  • Report alcohol confirmation test results with a .04 or greater alcohol concentration.
  • Report “actual knowledge” violations as defined in 49 CFR § 382.107.
  • Report that a driver successfully completed all follow-up tests as ordered by the Substance Abuse Professional.

Medical Review Officers (MROs) and Substance Abuse Professionals (SAPs) are also required to register for the Clearinghouse and will have specific responsibilities for reporting all “positive” drug test results, initial assessment information for drivers in violation, and eligibility to return to work.  

In addition to the employer registration instructions, you might want to read FMCSA’s four-page Clearinghouse Overview and the answers to some Frequently Asked Questions. If you are interested in having PACIF’s drug and alcohol testing partner, DISA (formerly known as Occupational Drug Testing), report certain violations, report return-to-duty information, and conduct queries on your behalf, please email Candice Rouisse (crouisse@occupationaldrugtesting.com) for more information and pricing.

If you need any additional assistance, please feel free to contact your VLCT PACIF Loss Control Consultant directly or email losscontrol@vlct.org.