The Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, which the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) developed more than three years ago, finally became available to authorized users on January 6, 2020. The database collects and stores information about professional drivers with a commercial driver’s license (CDL) or commercial learner’s permit (CLP) as it pertains to drug and alcohol violations. This covers all commercial drivers required to abide by the FMCSA’s drug and alcohol testing policy.
What information does the FMCSA Clearinghouse contain and who can see it?
This secure online database provides access to the FMCSA as well as employers, state law enforcement agencies, State Driver License Agencies (SDLA), and drivers themselves regarding failed drug or alcohol tests, test refusals, and the return to duty (RTD) process. It provides real-time data for all events that occurred on or after January 6, 2020. Specifically, authorized users can view the following information within the Clearinghouse:
- Positive test results for any drug listed in FMCSA regulations.
- Proof of alcohol use occurring up to eight hours before an accident or until the post-accident test, whichever event occurs first.
- Drug or alcohol test refusals.
- Use of alcohol while completing a safety-sensitive activity or within four hours of such activity.
- Remain on duty or return to duty with the intention to complete a safety-sensitive activity while the driver has a blood alcohol concentration at or above .04 percent. This also applies to drugs listed in Part 40 of FMCSA regulations except for those prescribed by a doctor.
Currently, the FMCSA requires authorized users of the Clearinghouse to conduct both manual and electronic inquiries covering a period of three years with previous employers to satisfy the agency’s requirements. The FMCSA requires a three-year look-back to ensure that new drivers aren’t concealing a history of drug or alcohol violations. As of January 23, 2023, authorized users can complete this requirement using the Clearinghouse alone as it will contain enough data to cover the mandatory lookback period.
What are the benefits of the new alcohol and drug Clearinghouse?
The Secretary of Transportation developed and launched the Clearinghouse after Congress passed a bill mandating its use. The agencies involved in developing the Clearinghouse expect it to produce the following benefits:
- Allow employers to meet obligations for reporting and pre-employment investigation easier than they could before the Clearinghouse went live.
- Allow the FMCSA to easily determine whether employers complied with investigation, reporting, and testing requirements.
- Make it more challenging for drivers with a history of drug or alcohol violations to conceal them from future or current employers.
- Equip roadside inspectors and other enforcement offers with the tools they need to make sure that drivers complete the required evaluation and drug or alcohol treatment before driving a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) again or completing another sensitive safety function.
Because the program is still so new, look for the FMCSA to evaluate it and publish materials describing whether it meets these objectives or not.
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