Back in January 2020, the FMCSA launched an online database where information regarding drivers’ drug and alcohol testing is stored. This is referred to as the DOT Clearinghouse and carriers must run queries on new hires to ensure there are no recent drug or alcohol violations that would prohibit them from operating a commercial vehicle.
Over the two-year course its been in effect, the DOT Clearinghouse has been a huge challenge for carriers. However, one area of the regulation has proven to be more problematic than the others. The pre-employment query has had carriers racking up more violations than anything else.
In this article, we’ll discuss the most common DOT Clearinghouse violation and how carriers can avoid it.
What is a Pre-Employment Query?
Before discussing the violation, let’s have a refresher on the DOT Clearinghouse. According to the relatively new regulation, motor carriers must run a pre-employment query on every driver before employment.
Since truck drivers operate large heavy-duty commercial vehicles, the DOT and FMCSA want to ensure our roads stay safe. Therefore, after carriers run the query they must verify that the driver has no violations listed in the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse. If you have a violation due to alcohol or drugs then you’re prohibited from operating a commercial vehicle.
Not having the full query included on the new hire’s file is considered a critical violation by the FMCSA. This means that the violation can result in a conditional rating.
Before a motor carrier can run a query on a potential new hire the driver has to give the DOT Clearinghouse electronic consent.
The necessity of providing an electronic signature can create a roadblock as this rule suggests the driver must have an account set up beforehand. If a driver doesn’t already have an account registered with Clearinghouse, there may be challenges during the hiring and onboarding process. As a result, delays are created and the onboarding process can take a lot longer than expected.
To prevent delays, ensure that you make the pre-employment query requirement an integral part of your hiring process. Also, don’t forget to check the driver’s initial motor vehicle report during the pre-hiring process.
By doing this you can shorten your onboarding timeline and detect drivers with violations early on.
Also, to avoid receiving any violations due to alcohol and drugs down the road, you should run queries on your drivers once a year. You’ll also have to update your driver qualification files after doing so.
First and foremost, you must verify whether or not you have the required full pre-employment query on file. This applies to every driver you have hired since the regulation took effect, i.e., January 2020.
If your file doesn’t contain the full query for some reason then run it now. Although it’s hard to say whether it will save you from receiving a violation, correcting your mistakes can lessen the consequences.
As stated above, you also need to implement this requirement into your hiring process to avoid any violations down the road. You should also have a system in place that manages all your queries and driver qualification files, this way you’ll remain compliant.