The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) created a Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse for the purpose of keeping habitually unsafe commercial drivers off the road. It began requiring employers to use the Clearinghouse in January 2020 to keep track of driver violations. In addition to employers and the FMCSA, information in the Clearinghouse is available to law enforcement personnel and driver’s license agencies at the state level with the proper registration and clearance.
The Clearinghouse provides data regarding drug and alcohol violations on anyone with a commercial driver’s license (CDL) or commercial learner’s permit (CLP). FMCSA regulation 49 CFR Part 382, Subpart B govern a commercial driver’s use of alcohol or drugs while on duty or several hours before the beginning of a shift. Specifically, FMCSA regulations prohibit the following:
- Reporting for duty with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of greater than .04 percent.
- Consuming alcohol or mind-altering drugs, legal or otherwise, while completing safety-sensitive functions. Employers with knowledge of the driver’s consumption cannot allow him or her to complete these tasks, including driving.
- Consuming alcohol or mind-altering drugs within four hours of the start of a shift.
- Consuming alcohol or mind-altering drugs within eight hours of an accident or the completion of a post-accident screening, whichever occurs first.
- Refusing a random or scheduled drug and alcohol test.
Those making a Clearinghouse query can learn about failed drug and alcohol tests and test refusals for an employee or prospective employee by paying the one-time query fee of $1.25. The FMCSA requires queries with all new hires and annually for every driver. Employers can also use the FMCSA Clearinghouse to find out more information about a driver who has completed a Return to Duty plan after a violation. This includes a scheduled testing plan going forward to ensure that the driver maintains his or her sobriety on the job.
Clearinghouse keeps track of driver violations.
Before the FMCSA instituted the Clearinghouse, it wasn’t uncommon for drivers with drug or alcohol violations in one state who could no longer drive professionally to move to another state and apply for a commercial driving position. Employers had little way of knowing the driver’s history without access to this multi-state system.
However, the Clearinghouse database makes it difficult, if not impossible, for drivers with a history of failed drug and alcohol tests and/or test refusals to leave one state to work in another. The system uses the driver’s CDL number to link state records, creating a clear and accurate picture for a prospective employer or anyone else who needs to access the driver’s Clearinghouse record.
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