When the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released its Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse in January 2020, it did so with the requirement that employers of those holding a commercial driver’s license (CDL) purchase a query plan. This allows employers and any third- party administrator or consortium they assign to request information on drug and alcohol violations of current and prospective employees. Upon registration, employers must log into the Clearinghouse and purchase a query plan. We’ll go over what the different Clearinghouse query plans are.
What is a Clearinghouse query?
The FMCSA defines a query as an electronic request to determine if a current or future employee has any drug or alcohol violations on file that would prevent him or her from driving a commercial vehicle or completing other functions considered safety sensitive. Employers or their appropriate designed party can request either one of these two queries:
- Limited: Employers must obtain consent from the driver outside the Clearinghouse system before requesting a limited query. This search alerts them to any information in the driver’s file concerning past drug and alcohol violations.
- Full: A fully query provides employers or their designated representative with detailed information regarding resolved and unresolved drug and alcohol violations. The employer must first receive permission from the driver through the Clearinghouse system before proceeding.
If the employer feels it necessary to request a full query because the limited query didn’t provide enough information, the FMCSA only charges for the first query.
Rates and requirements of Clearinghouse query plans.
The FMCSA currently charges $1.25 per query. This includes both the limited and full versions. It requires employers to purchase a query plan based on the company’s anticipated volume. Companies that use a third-party administrator or consortium cannot allow that organization to purchase on their behalf. However, the designated representatives can request limited or full data once the payment for a query plan has processed. Keep in mind that all owner-operators must designate a third-party administrator or consortium to stay in check with FMCSA guidelines.
The FMCSA also has rules in place regarding when and how often employers must access the Clearinghouse for each employee or potential employee. This includes during any pre-employment investigation as well as annually for every driver that holds a CDL.
Determining how many queries to purchase.
The FMCSA recommends that all employers purchase queries based on how many commercial drivers are currently on the payroll. It does allow the purchase of additional plans if needed. Employers with high-volume query needs should navigate to the Query Plans for High-Volume Users to learn more about the purchasing options available to them. The Unlimited Query Plan expires 12 months from the date of purchase while each query purchased for $1.25 never expires. Employers must weigh the expiration dates against the annual flat rate to determine which option is most economical for them.
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