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Clearinghouse – What Are the Employer Responsibilities?

CDL Clearinghouse Basics

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) created a national database known as Clearinghouse. This new system was designed to store drug and alcohol violation records of FMCSA-regulated drivers.

The Clearinghouse online database helps employers (prospective and current) and the FMCSA to identify violations of controlled substance and alcohol usage among FMCSA-regulated CDL drivers and CDL permit holders.

Employers will be able to check if a driver has any open violations and verify that they have successfully completed any required follow-up alcohol testing program or substance abuse training.

Clearinghouse was implemented on January 6, 2020. As of January 6, 2023, Clearinghouse was fully implemented, meaning the paper “previous employer checks” form is no longer required.

What does the DOT Clearinghouse mean for my business?

The FMCSA’s Clearinghouse will have an impact on virtually all employers who employ FMCSA-regulated drivers. Most notably, it means that employers must conduct a full query of the driver as part of each pre-employment process.

The Clearinghouse’s implementation is designed to help employers better manage safety protocols and provide a more efficient way to keep their drivers compliant with drug & alcohol testing regulations.

Benefits of FMCSA Clearinghouse

The FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse (DACH) is a welcome addition to creating a safer and more compliant driving environment. Among the many benefits of the Clearinghouse database include:

  • Provides employers with a more efficient way of tracking driver violations while also allowing drivers to quickly and easily manage their records.
  • Helps minimize the amount of time and paperwork employers must complete each year to stay compliant.
  • Enables employers to quickly verify all aspects of driver’s records and test results, follow-up tests, and return-to-duty tests.
  • Allows employers to quickly and easily identify any issues now before they become larger compliance problems in the future.

Top 5 Employer Questions: Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse

1. Is my business affected by the CDL Clearinghouse?

Yes, if you have drivers subject to controlled substances and alcohol testing performing safety-sensitive functions, you are required to register with Clearinghouse and conduct a full query of each driver as part of your pre-employment process.

All FMCSA-regulated driver employers, Medical Review Officers (MROs), third-party administrators (TPAs), and Substance Abuse Professionals (SAPs) must register with Clearinghouse as well.

2. When do I need to register my company for the CDL Clearinghouse?

Registration with Clearinghouse has been mandatory since January 6, 2020. Doing this as soon as possible is best to avoid any potential compliance issues with the FMCSA.

3. How is driver information in the CDL Clearinghouse protected?

Written or electronic consent from the concerned CDL driver is required before an employer or other authorized entities (TPA or MRO) can access their information in Clearinghouse.

The consent, however, may be retained for 3 years from the date of the last query. After 3 years, the driver must be asked for consent to access their records again.

Additionally, the FMCSA is required to notify the CDL driver if any information has been released from Clearinghouse to an employer or if any information has been removed or revised.

4. How much does it cost to search the CDL Clearinghouse, and what information do I get when I search?

The cost of a query depends on the type of search and how many drivers are being searched. The search results will give employers information related to drug and alcohol testing, alcohol program violations, the completion status of the tests, reports on drug and alcohol usage, and more.

5. Which violations are included in the Clearinghouse, and how are they removed?

Clearinghouse includes any alcohol and drug-related violations such as but not limited to the following:

  • Alcohol confirmation test (at least 0.04 concentration).
  • Verified positive, adulterated, or substituted controlled substances test results.
  • Refusal to submit to drug and alcohol tests.
  • Usage of alcohol pre-duty or on-duty.

Violations are removed from Clearinghouse after 5 years, providing that all requirements have been met. This includes completing a return-to-duty process, such as a drug or alcohol test and an evaluation by a Substance Abuse Professional (SAP).

An Employer’s Guide to the FMCSA Clearinghouse

Employer’s Responsibilities

Fleet owners, regulated motor carriers, employers of FMCSA-regulated drivers, and service agents are required to register with the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse as part of the compliance requirements of the FMCSA.

Employers must also conduct full queries and limited queries of current drivers and review the results for any violations and substance usage reports.

Additionally, employers must create, maintain, and audit past and current policies that adhere to Clearinghouse’s regulations.

Employers must also ensure that the driver obtains written consent before sharing any information about them with other employers or agencies.

Finally, employers must also create a system for confirming the completion of return-to-duty processes.

Full vs. Limited Queries: FMCSA Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse

Full queries provide employers with detailed information about the driver’s drug and alcohol program violations.

The FMCSA requires employers to conduct an annual query for each of their drivers. Additionally, employers must conduct full queries prior to the driver’s initial assignment.

Limited queries, on the other hand, only provide the employer with whether any record exists in Clearinghouse regarding a specific driver.

Limited queries can be done in lieu of the annual query. However, if there is reasonable suspicion of an alcohol or drug violation, the employer must conduct a full query within 24 hours.

Each query type, full and limited, must be stored for 3 years by the employer for recordkeeping.

Obtaining Consent from Drivers

Under the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse, employers must obtain written or electronic consent from CDL drivers before accessing their information from Clearinghouse.

Drivers must be informed that they have the right to access any information collected about them and request its modification or removal.

Reporting to the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse

Employers, TPAs, and MROs are responsible for reporting the results of drug & alcohol tests to Clearinghouse within 2-3 business days of obtaining any drug and alcohol violation of employees.

Employers must also report any violations that are not reported by TPAs or MROs. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Positive drug and alcohol test results
  • Adulterated or substituted drug and alcohol test reports
  • Refusal to take DOT drug and alcohol test
  • Usage of alcohol or prohibited drugs before or during duty

Employers are also required to report to Clearinghouse if any of the below apply:

  • If the concerned driver has completed all prescribed DOT tests
  • Negative return-to-duty test result

When reporting, employers must include the following information:

  • Driver’s name and birthday
  • Driver’s CDL number and date of issuance,
  • Type and date of violation
  • Description of violation
  • Evidence of violation
  • Name of employer or agency at the time of the violation
  • Documentation of completion of return-to-duty process
  • For driver grave violations: Documentation that the employee has resigned or terminated

An Employee’s Guide to the FMCSA Clearinghouse

Clearinghouse is a great tool for truckers to keep up to date on their drug & alcohol testing and any next steps that need to be taken.

Registering with the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse as a CDL Employee

As an employee, you will need to register with Clearinghouse and provide accurate information.

  • To register, you must have your CDL or CLP information.
  • Go to the FMCSA Clearinghouse website and click “Register Now.”
  • From there, you will be able to set up your account and provide the necessary information.

What happens once you’re registered?

Once you are registered with Clearinghouse, any positive drug or alcohol test will be reported, including test refusals, return-to-duty process, and follow-up testing.

Your employer and other authorized users will also be able to conduct queries on your records. It’s important to make sure all of your information is up-to-date, so employers can acquire accurate and current data.

What are the consequences of drug & alcohol violations for CDL drivers?

A violation can result in criminal and civil penalties from the FMCSA and state agencies and a suspension or revocation of your CDL. Employers can also decide to terminate you, depending on the severity of the violation.

If you are found to have violated any drug or alcohol regulations, you will be required to go through a return-to-duty process.

Return-to-Duty Process

Employee’s Responsibilities

When you return to duty after a violation, you must complete certain steps to make sure that you have complied with the FMCSA guidelines. This includes:

  • Attend all required courses and counseling sessions.
  • Complete a return-to-duty evaluation with a SAP.
  • Undergo a return-to-duty test. Drug test results must be negative, and alcohol test results must be below 0.02 in concentration.
  • Submit proof of completion to Clearinghouse.

Employer’s Responsibilities

Employers must also meet certain requirements in order to keep the driver compliant. This includes:

  • Reporting the test results to Clearinghouse
  • Checking the driver’s status on a regular basis
  • Providing return-to-duty confirmation to Clearinghouse

Employers are not required to reinstate erring employees to safety-sensitive duties; it is at their discretion based on their collective bargaining agreement (CBA) or other applicable laws.

SAP’s or MRO’s Responsibilities

A Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) or Medical Review Officer (MRO) must provide an evaluation of the driver’s return-to-duty process. This includes:

  • Providing a comprehensive alcohol & drug evaluation
  • Recommending all necessary treatment or follow-up services for the driver
  • Issuing written documentation of the return-to-duty process

SAPs and MROs are not allowed to make “fitness for duty” recommendations; that is the employer’s responsibility.

Get in Touch With DOT Compliance Group

DOT Compliance Group can provide assistance with any of your Clearinghouse needs. What we can help you with:

  • Assist with Registering with Clearinghouse
  • Driver qualification assistance
  • Perform queries and collection of data on your behalf (upon request)
  • Report certain DOT violations on your behalf
  • Provide resources and materials to help you comply with DOT regulations

Please note that due to FMCSA rules and regulations, DOT Compliance Group cannot legally set up your FMCSA portal or Clearinghouse account for you; however, we can assist you with setting them up. We also cannot:

  • Provide troubleshooting assistance for registration issues with the government website. You would need to contact Clearinghouse.
  • Report actual knowledge violations as defined by Section 382.107 of the Controlled Substances and Alcohol Use and Testing Regulations. 

Contact us today for more information about our services and how we can help you stay compliant with the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse!

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