The Department of Transportation’s (DOT) alcohol and drug Clearinghouse aims to enhance road safety by ensuring that drivers who fail or refuse drug or alcohol tests are unable to conceal violations from current and future employers.
This article provides an overview of the Clearinghouse, how it works, and who is required to use it. Learning more about it is crucial for anyone operating commercial motor vehicles, or looking to hire truck drivers. And when you’re finished reading, check out the other articles in our ‘DOT Clearinghouse’ series:
- Drivers’ guide to the DOT Clearinghouse background screening
- What is the alcohol and drug Clearinghouse for truckers?
- How to detect dangerous driver behavior
What is the FMCSA alcohol and drug Clearinghouse?
The DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse is a secure online database that provides real-time information about commercial truck and bus drivers’ drug and alcohol program violations. Its purpose is to enhance road safety by ensuring that drivers who fail or refuse FMCSA driver Clearinghouse drug or alcohol tests are unable to conceal these violations from current and future employers.
The federal Clearinghouse was mandated by Congress in 2012 under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) Act and launched by the FMCSA in January 2020. It contains records of positive drug or alcohol tests, test refusals, and other non-compliance with DOT testing regulations for CDL-holders.
Employers are required to conduct both pre-employment and annual queries of the FMCSA Clearinghouse for drivers they currently employ or are considering hiring. Truckers must register for a Clearinghouse background check, and sign an electronic Clearinghouse driver consent form before employer queries can be run. If drug or alcohol violations are found in the FMCSA driver portal, employers must immediately remove drivers from operating commercial motor vehicles.
Authorized users like employers, drivers, consortia/third party administrators, state driver licensing agencies, and law enforcement can access the FMCSA portal. Starting in 2024, the FMCSA will implement new regulations expanding required employer reporting and granting access to some historical FMCSA Clearinghouse portal data from previous employers.
Overall, the DOT driver Clearinghouse portal represents an important tool for systematically identifying commercial drivers unable to safely operate vehicles due to drug or alcohol abuse, ensuring they are removed from America’s roadways. Mandatory employer FMCSA drug testing compliance provides a new level of monitoring and enforcement for reducing substance abuse-related traffic accidents and injuries.
How the CDL Clearinghouse website works
Here’s how the national Clearinghouse tracks violations of the drug and alcohol policy for truck drivers:
- Drivers must first register for Clearinghouse portal access and obtain an FMCSA login. A signed FMCSA Clearinghouse consent form is required.
- Employers conduct queries by searching for a driver by their name, date of birth, and driver’s license number. Two types of queries can be run: limited and full.
- Limited queries simply indicate if a driver record exists along with contact info. Full queries provide details on any violations of FMCSA Clearinghouse rules.
- Violations that must be reported by employers include positive drug/alcohol tests, test refusals, and other non-compliance with mandatory driver testing.
- After entering FMCSA Clearinghouse violations, employers must update the driver’s status as either ‘prohibited’ from operating commercial vehicles or ‘permitted’ after follow-up.
- Drivers can access their own records to review violations, update status, share return-to-duty documentation, and authorize users.
- The site offers training materials, best practices, and FMCSA Clearinghouse FAQ documentation to help users comply with mandatory usage.
- Strict access controls and encryption protect driver data privacy and security.
- Both the Clearinghouse website and mobile app versions exist to allow easy access.
When are drug and alcohol screenings required?
Drug tests are performed as part of every pre-employment screening. Additionally, drug and alcohol screenings are conducted under the following circumstances:
- Random: Employers must administer unannounced screenings to randomly selected drivers each year. This entails requiring the drivers to report immediately to a testing center. Each year motor carriers are required to randomly test 50% of drivers for drugs, and 10% for alcohol.
- Reasonable suspicion: Conducted when a company official trained on FMCSA detection methods has specific reason for suspicion. This may be based on a driver’s appearance, behavior, speech or odor.
- Return-to-duty: Conducted upon completion of ‘return-to-duty’ procedures under the supervision of a DOT-qualified substance abuse professional.
- Follow-up: Over the year after returning to duty following violations, drivers are subject to a minimum of six unannounced screenings. These may be extended over four additional years at the discretion of the substance abuse professional.
- Post-accident: In the following scenarios, drivers may be screened for drug and alcohol use. Screening requirements depend on the severity of the accident and whether the driver receives a citation.
|Accident results in human fatality
|Accident causes injuries requiring immediate medical treatment away from the scene
|Screening not required
|Disabling damage to any motor vehicle requiring tow away
|Screening not required
Refusal to submit to testing generally results in an immediate violation. Drivers are removed from service and can only resume after completing ‘return-to-duty’ procedures under the supervision of a DOT-qualified professional.
Make sure you understand your regulatory responsibilities
The FMCSA Clearinghouse represents a major step forward in ensuring the safety of America’s roadways. Strict mandatory compliance for employers aims to provide consistent enforcement and remove dangerous CDL holders from operating heavy vehicles. As the Clearinghouse is expanded, this national database will be one of many invaluable tools for keeping our roads safe. Having fewer impaired drivers behind the wheel helps to prevent vehicular accidents and fatalities.
Drivers operating vehicles requiring a commercial driver’s license for strictly intrastate commerce are exempt from Clearinghouse reporting requirements and queries. However, many states are implementing their own truck driver Clearinghouse requirements for intrastate drivers.
Yes, the use of the FMCSA drug Clearinghouse is federally mandated. Employers must report violations for their drivers and conduct an FMCSA Clearinghouse query for violations annually and at pre-employment.
If an FMCSA Clearinghouse query on a driver shows ‘not prohibited,’ it means the individual’s permitted to operate commercial vehicles. In other words, there are no active drug and alcohol program violations on record.
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