What do owner-operators need to know about Clearinghouse?

There are a lot of regulations out there that truckers need to adhere to. Recently, the FMCSA’s Clearinghouse took effect, which means that there are new requirements truck drivers – owner-operators included – need to know about. Things get a little complicated for owner-operators because they’re both employer and driver. That’s why we’ve put together some need-to-know information about Clearinghouse for owner-operators.

What owner-operators should know about Clearinghouse.

First of all, what is Clearinghouse?

Let’s just take a second to clarify exactly what Clearinghouse is. Clearinghouse is an online database that contains information about the drug and alcohol violations of CDL and CLP holders. It can be accessed by employers and the FMCSA, but it can also be accessed by State law enforcement and State licensing agencies. The information is current and real-time.

To be a little more specific, the Clearinghouse contains violations of drug and alcohol regulations as found in 49 CFR Part 382. (This includes drug test results that come back positive and drug test refusals.) It also contains information about the completion of an RTD (return-to-duty) process and follow-up testing plan, if applicable.

Who will be affected by Clearinghouse?

Pretty much anyone who either has a CDL or who employs someone who holds a CDL will be affected by Clearinghouse. (That means interstate/intrastate motor carriers, school bus drivers, construction equipment operators, organizations – federal or otherwise – that employ drivers who are subject to the FMCSA’s drug and alcohol testing requirements, and more.)

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How do employers and consortia/third-party administrators have to use Clearinghouse?

So, the deal is that employers have to use Clearinghouse to conduct “queries” about their drivers to make sure that they don’t have any unresolved violations that could make them ineligible to operate a CMV – an unresolved violation being a violation for which the driver has not yet completed the return-to-duty process. (Querying is required for both current and prospective employees. Employers have to do a pre-employment query for new hires and they have to do an annual query for their current drivers.) In order to do all of this, employers and C/TPAs have to be registered for the Clearinghouse. Now, for owner-operators, that gets a little fuzzy since they’re both employer and driver, but we’ll explain.

Pro tip: To register for Clearinghouse, go to the Clearinghouse website and use their helpful, step-by-step guides for registration. They’re organized by type of user.

Do owner-operators have to do queries on themselves?

Well, yes. Anyone who employs a CDL driver is required to query the Clearinghouse, and that means owner-operators, too. Basically it all boils down to this – owner-operators have to follow both the regulations for drivers and those for employers since technically they’re both. In order to do this, owner-operators have to specify a consortium/third-party administrator (C/TPA) in Clearinghouse so they can properly adhere to reporting requirements.

How do owner-operators adhere to Clearinghouse requirements?

So, we mentioned C/TPAs. Owner-operators have to have one of those so that they can report drug and alcohol violations in the Clearinghouse for the owner-operator. The upside is that the C/TPA can do queries on behalf of the owner-operator. That could be helpful.

Can drivers see their information in Clearinghouse?

Yes, drivers can access their information in the Clearinghouse. They’ll be able to see whatever drug and alcohol program violation information is available, and they’ll also be able to see information concerning return-to-duty processes if that’s relevant.

So, that’s a basic overview of what owner-operators should know about Clearinghouse. It’s really important that you understand your responsibilities under the new system so that you make sure you’re fulfilling them. Clearinghouse might seem a bit overwhelming, but it was implemented to make the roads safer.

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Another thing not to overlook is your insurance. Your truck insurance is what can help you keep your truck business on its feet following a loss. Our truck insurance professionals would be happy to help you get quotes for your transportation insurance. Get started with your quotes by using our online form. If you prefer to call or LiveChat, that’s fine, too!