8 FAQs about the FMCSA Clearinghouse

Truckers are expected to adhere to a lot of regulations. One of the big “breaking news” events in the trucking world as far as regulations are concerned is the Clearinghouse. There’s a lot about the Clearinghouse that you have to know, and it’s totally understandable if you have a bunch of questions. We’ll go over a few common FAQs about the new Clearinghouse.

What is Clearinghouse?

So, let’s start at the beginning. Clearinghouse is a secure database that’s online. It holds information about CDL and CLP holders’ drug and alcohol violations, and employers, the FMCSA, State Drivers Licensing Authorities, and law enforcement can access it.

It’s going to have records of drug and alcohol violations as per 49 CFR Part 382, Subpart B. That means it’ll include positive drug or alcohol test results, and it’ll also include information about test refusals. If a driver completes a Return to Duty process and follow-up plan, that’ll also go into the Clearinghouse.

Something else to know about Clearinghouse is that it keeps track if a driver gets a drug or alcohol violations in one state, then tries to get a CDL in a different state. It links the CDLs so that the FMCSA can keep accurate records.

Violations that happened before the January 6, 2020 date will NOT be included. And if a violation occurred before January 6, 2020 and is in the Return-to-Duty process when the Clearinghouse starts, the violation and related RTD information won’t be in the database.

The Clearinghouse: Dates you should know.

Dec. 5, 2016: Congress gave the mandate that Clearinghouse would happen.

Oct. 2019: Registration for the Clearinghouse opened.

Fall 2019: Employers can purchase their query plans.

Jan. 6, 2020: The Clearinghouse will go into effect, meaning that employers will have to register drug and alcohol violations there. They can also use the database to do queries. (Manual inquiries from previous employers will still be required to cover the last three years.)

Jan. 6, 2023: The three-year mark will have passed, so employers will only have to query the Clearinghouse about prospective employees.

FMCSA Clearinghouse

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What drivers and employers will be affected by Clearinghouse?

There are a lot of people who will be affected by Clearinghouse, including interstate/intrastate motor carriers, school bus drivers, operators of construction equipment, limo drivers, municipal vehicle drivers, federal organizations, and other organizations that employ drivers subject to FMCSA drug and alcohol testing regulations.

Do CDL drivers have to register for Clearinghouse?

Drivers do not have to register, but they have to be registered for practical reasons. They need to be registered so they can give electronic consent in Clearinghouse if current or prospective employers need to do a full query. (That includes pre-employment queries beginning on January 6, 2020.) Drivers also need to be registered so that they can check their own information.

How does Clearinghouse impact employers of drivers with CDLs and CLPs?

Employers are going to be affected, of course. It lets them have a database to query about driver information, and it gives them a place to report drug and alcohol violations if a current or prospective employee that holds a CDL or CLP gets one.

Employers will have to use the database in several ways:

  • To do full queries as part of the pre-employment driver investigation process
  • To run limited queries once a year for each employee
  • To get electronic consent from drivers for full queries (including pre-employment queries)
  • To report violations of drug and alcohol use
  • To record return-to-duty results that are negative as well as the date of a successful follow-up testing plan for any drivers that have drug and alcohol violations that have not been sorted out

What are full queries and limited queries?

There are different kinds of queries: limited queries and full queries.

A limited query lets an employer see if a driver’s record has any information regarding drug and alcohol program violation, whether resolved or unresolved. There won’t be any super detailed information from the driver’s Clearinghouse records. Limited queries only require general consent, which is from outside the Clearinghouse. The general consent doesn’t need to be done annually or anything like that, but it does need to give a timeframe for which the driver is giving their consent.

A full query lets the employer see the details about drug or alcohol violations that are in a driver’s record. You’ve got to get electronic consent through the Clearinghouse before any detailed information about a driver’s violations is given.

When will employers still have to do pre-employment driver investigations with previous employers?

Prospective employers (or their consortium) will have to do both electronic queries in the Clearinghouse…and manual inquiries with the previous employers. That’s because they need to meet the three-year timeframe for pre-employment driver investigations. After January 6, 2023, three years will have passed since the database went into effect. And that means that three years of violations will be stored in the Clearinghouse, so prospective employers will not have to do manual inquiries with the former employers of the CDL driver. The three-year requirement will have been met.

However, if the prospective employee was beholden to a different type of drug and alcohol testing (other than the FMCSA), the employer has to get the drug and alcohol from those USDOT-regulated employers since that information isn’t in the Clearinghouse.

How do owner-operators meet their Clearinghouse requirements?

Okay, so if employers have to report drug and alcohol violations into the database, how do owner-operators meet that requirement? They employ themselves and drive for themselves. But they also have to meet the FMCSA requirements relating to employers and employees.

Here’s the scoop – an employer who employers themselves as a CDL driver can have a consortium/third party administrator so they can meet the employer reporting requirements. This consortium can do queries on behalf of the owner-operator, and they report drug and alcohol violations to the Clearinghouse for the driver. So, that’s how owner-operators meet the requirements.

Can drivers correct information in the Clearinghouse?

Yes. There is a way for drivers to ask that their information be changed. However, they can only challenge the accuracy of the information reported – not the accuracy or validity of test results.

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So, those are some FAQs that you should know about. You can find out more on the FMCSA website. And it’s important that you adhere to FMCSA regulations, which our team can help you with. Our transportation insurance professionals can help you get the coverage you need for your business. Get in touch with our team by filling out our online form, giving us a call, or messaging us on LiveChat.