After working on its development for several years, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released its Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse in January 2020. Commonly referred to as just the Clearinghouse, the purpose of the new database is to provide a central location for driver drug and alcohol violations to make it easier for employers, potential employers, law enforcement, and the FMCSA itself to track.
One example of how the Clearinghouse works is when a driver with multiple violations who is no longer eligible for commercial employment moves to another state to secure a new driving position thinking the violations won’t follow him or her. The new database makes it much easier to track these issues and prevent impaired driving that threatens public safety. While there are many reasons for the development of the Clearinghouse, drivers understandably have some concerns about how the FMCSA protects their personal information.
The FMCSA takes driver privacy concerns seriously.
Because the program is still so new, the FMCSA errs on the side of caution regarding who can access what information within the DOT Clearinghouse. In addition to making sure that the Clearinghouse meets all federal privacy standards, the FMCSA has stated it will review the database regularly to evaluate its overall effectiveness and troubleshoot any problem areas. This includes driver security. Here are several safeguards the FMCSA already has in place to prevent the release of private data about drivers to unauthorized parties:
- The FMCSA and any party authorized accessing information about a driver will only use the data to enforce existing regulations regarding alcohol and drug testing.
- No member of the public may access the Clearinghouse just for curiosity’s sake. The FMCSA has established minimum criteria that each party requiring access must meet, including the organization’s purpose for needing the data.
- A prospective employer or a designated consortium or third-party administrator must receive authorization from the driver applicant to receive detailed information regarding alcohol and drug violations. Drivers themselves can request to see the same information released to the prospective employer.
- All parties using the Clearinghouse must register for an account and receive login and password credentials before accessing it for the first time. Registration takes place at login.gov, a website offering secure access to several government programs for authorized users. Each user must also undergo a verification process when accessing the Clearinghouse to ensure that only those with the proper credentials can see information regarding alcohol and drug violations by commercial drivers.
- Drivers can register for a Clearinghouse account and view their own information any time at no cost to them. However, they may not attempt to access alcohol and drug violation information about other drivers.
Another way the FMCSA guards driver privacy is by requiring authorized users to enter a commercial driver’s license number rather than the driver’s social security number or employee identification number.
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