CDL Clearinghouse Basics
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) created a national database known as Clearinghouse. This new system was designed to store records of drug and alcohol tests for all commercial motor vehicle drivers, including those with a commercial driver’s license (CDL) and commercial learner’s permit (CLP).
The Clearinghouse online database helps employers (prospective and current) and the FMCSA to identify any directly observed therapy (DOT) violations and controlled substance and alcohol usage among CDL drivers and CDL permit holders.
Employers will be able to check if a driver has completed an alcohol or drug test and more easily verify that they have successfully completed any required follow-up alcohol testing program or substance abuse training.
Clearinghouse was recently fully implemented on January 6, 2023. It is now mandatory for all CDL drivers, employers of CDL drivers, and medical review officers (MRO) to register with Clearinghouse to stay compliant with DOT regulations.
What does the DOT Clearinghouse mean for my business?
The FMCSA’s Clearinghouse will have an impact on virtually all employers who employ CDL drivers. Most notably, it means that employers must conduct a full query of the driver as part of each pre-employment process.
The Clearinghouse’s implementation is designed to help employers better manage safety protocols and provide a more efficient way to keep their drivers compliant with drug & alcohol testing regulations.
Benefits of FMCSA Clearinghouse
The FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse is a welcome addition to creating a safer and more compliant driving environment. Among the many benefits of the Clearinghouse database include:
- Provides employers with a more efficient way of tracking driver violations, while also allowing drivers to quickly and easily manage their records
- Helps minimize the amount of time and paperwork employers must complete each year to stay compliant
- Enables employers to quickly verify all aspects of their drivers, including drug and alcohol testing reports and follow-up tests
- Allows employers to quickly and easily identify any issues now before they become larger compliance problems in the future
Top 5 Employer Questions: Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse
1. Is my business affected by the CDL Clearinghouse?
Yes, if you have any drivers operating commercial vehicles or performing safety-sensitive functions, you are required to register with Clearinghouse and conduct a full query of each driver as part of your pre-employment process.
All CDL employers, Medical Review Officers (MROs), third-party administrators (TPAs), and Substance Abuse Professionals (SAPs) must register with Clearinghouse as well.
Additionally, there is also a Clearinghouse for educational institutions. The Educational Facilities Clearinghouse is designed to support and provide resources to preschool, grade school, and higher education institutions for any drug- and alcohol-related incidents on campus.
2. When do I need to register my company for the CDL Clearinghouse?
Registration with Clearinghouse is now mandatory as of January 6, 2023. It is best to do this as soon as possible to avoid any potential compliance issues with the FMCSA.
3. How is driver information in the CDL Clearinghouse protected?
Written or electronic consent from the concerned CDL driver is required before an employer or other authorized entities (TPA or MRO) can access their information in Clearinghouse.
The consent, however, may be retained for 3 years from the date of the last query. After 3 years, the driver must be asked for consent to access their records again.
Additionally, the FMCSA is required to notify the CDL driver if any information has been released from Clearinghouse to an employer or if any information has been removed or revised.
4. How much does it cost to search the CDL Clearinghouse, and what information do I get when I search?
The cost of a query depends on the type of search and how many drivers are being searched. The search results will give employers information related to drug and alcohol testing, alcohol program violations, the completion status of the tests, reports on drug and alcohol usage, and more.
5. Which violations are included in the CDL Clearinghouse and how are they removed?
Clearinghouse includes any alcohol and drug-related violations such as but not limited to the following:
- alcohol confirmation test (at least 0.04 concentration)
- positive drug test or controlled substance test results (including adultered and substituted results)
- refusal to submit to drug and alcohol test
- usage of alcohol pre-duty or on-duty
Violations are removed from the Clearinghouse after 5 years, providing that all requirements have been met. This includes completing a return-to-duty process, such as a drug or alcohol test and an evaluation by a Substance Abuse Professional (SAP).
An Employer’s Guide to the FMCSA Clearinghouse
Fleet owners, regulated motor carriers, employers of CDL drivers, and service agents are required to register with the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse as part of the compliance requirements of the FMCSA.
Employers must also conduct full queries and limited queries of current drivers, and review the results for any violations and substance usage reports.
Additionally, employers must create, maintain, and audit past and current policies that adhere to Clearinghouse’s regulations.
Employers must also ensure that the driver obtains written consent before sharing any information about them with other employers or agencies.
Finally, employers must also create a system for confirming the completion of return-to-duty processes.
Full vs. Limited Queries: FMCSA Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse
Full queries provide employers with detailed information about the driver’s drug and alcohol program violations.
The FMCSA requires employers to conduct an annual full query for each of their drivers. Additionally, employers must conduct full queries prior to the driver’s initial assignment.
Limited queries, on the other hand, only provide the employer with whether any record exists in Clearinghouse regarding a specific driver.
Limited queries can be done in lieu of the annual query. However, if there is reasonable suspicion of an alcohol or drug violation, the employer must conduct a full query within 24 hours.
Each query, both full and limited, must be stored for 3 years by the employer for recordkeeping.
Obtaining Consent from Drivers
Under the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse, employers must obtain written or electronic consent from CDL drivers before accessing their information from Clearinghouse.
Drivers must be informed that they have the right to access any information collected about them and request its modification or removal.
Reporting to the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse
Employers, TPAs, and MROs are responsible for reporting the results of drug & alcohol tests to Clearinghouse within 2-3 business days of obtaining any drug and alcohol violation of employees.
Employers must also report any violations that are not reported by TPAs or MROs. This includes but is not limited to:
- Positive drug and alcohol test results
- Adultered or substituted drug and alcohol test reports
- Refusal to take DOT drug and alcohol test
- Usage of alcohol or prohibited drugs before or during duty
Employers are also required to report to Clearinghouse if any of the below apply:
- If the concerned driver has completed all prescribed DOT tests
- Negative return-to-duty test result
When reporting, employers must include the following information:
- Driver’s name and birthday
- Driver’s CDL number and date of issuance,
- Type and date of violation
- Description of violation
- Evidence of violation
- Name of employer or agency at the time of the violation
- Documentation of completion of return-to-duty process
- For driver grave violations: Documentation that the employee has resigned or terminated
An Employee’s Guide to the FMCSA Clearinghouse
Clearinghouse is a great tool for truckers to keep up to date on their drug & alcohol testing and any next steps that need to be taken.
Registering to the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse as a CDL Employee
As an employee, you are required to register with Clearinghouse and provide accurate information. This includes all drug and alcohol testing results, any information related to violations and returns-to-duty processes, and DOT medical exam certificates.
- To register, you must have your DOT number and your social security number.
- Go to the FMCSA Clearinghouse website and click “Register Now.”
- From there, you will be able to set up your account and provide the necessary information.
What happens once you’re registered?
Once you are registered with Clearinghouse, any time you are drug or alcohol tested, your results will be reported to Clearinghouse.
Your employer and other authorized users will also be able to conduct queries on your records. It’s important to make sure all of your information is up-to-date, so employers can acquire accurate and current data.
What are the consequences of drug & alcohol violations for CDL drivers?
A violation can result in criminal and civil penalties from the FMCSA and state agencies and a suspension or revocation of your CDL. Employers can also decide to terminate you, depending on the severity of the violation.
If you are found to have violated any drug or alcohol regulations, you will be required to go through a return-to-duty process.
When you return to duty after a violation, you must complete certain steps to make sure that you have complied with the FMCSA guidelines. This includes:
- Undergo a DOT drug and alcohol test. Drug and alcohol test results must be below 0.02 in concentration.
- Complete a return-to-duty evaluation with a SAP
- Attend all required courses and counseling sessions
- Submit proof of completion to Clearinghouse
Employers must also meet certain requirements in order to keep the driver compliant. This includes:
- Reporting the test results to Clearinghouse
- Checking the driver’s status on a regular basis
- Providing return-to-duty confirmation to Clearinghouse
Employers are not required to reinstate erring employees to safety-sensitive duties; it is at their discretion based on their collective bargaining agreement (CBA) or other applicable laws.
SAP’s or MOR’s Responsibilities
A Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) or Medical Review Officer (MRO) must provide an evaluation of the driver’s return-to-duty process. This includes:
- Providing a comprehensive alcohol & drug evaluation
- Recommending all necessary treatment or follow-up services for the driver
- Issuing written documentation of the return-to-duty process
SAPs and MROs are not allowed to make “fitness for duty” recommendations; that is the employer’s responsibility.
Get in Touch With Dot Compliance
Dot Compliance can provide assistance with any of your Clearinghouse needs. What we can help you with:
- Driver qualification assistance
- Perform queries and collection of data on your behalf (upon request)
- Report certain DOT violations on your behalf
- Provide resources and materials to help you comply with DOT regulations
Please note, however, that due to FMCSA rules and regulations, Dot Compliance is only able to provide limited assistance. We cannot:
- Register your business or employee with the FMCSA Clearinghouse
- Provide troubleshooting assistance for registration problems
- Report actual knowledge violations as defined by Section 382.107 of the Controlled Substances and Alcohol Use and Testing Regulations
Contact us today for more information about our services and how we can help you stay compliant with the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse!