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Safety & Maintenance | Around the Industry

December 17, 2019


New FMCSA Clearinghouse Rules Take Effect January 2020: Are You Prepared?

There's a new “Clearinghouse” you need to know about. And, it’s not magazines or million dollar sweepstakes.

This one is specific to the trucking industry, and it’s huge. It’s the Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse and it will support the DOT Strategic Goal of Safety when it goes live this January by ensuring drivers are qualified to operate trucks and buses. The new database, established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), will contain information pertaining to violations of the DOT’s controlled substances drug and alcohol testing program for holders of CDLs.

The shared database requires employers regulated by FMCSA, Medical Review Officers (MROs), Substance Abuse Professionals (SAPs), drug testing consortiums third party administrators, and other service agents to report violations. Anyone who employs workers with a commercial driver’s license must comply with the regulations beginning January 6, 2020 — only violations that occur on or after the rule’s implementation date will be included.

Safety and professionalism continue to be areas of focus for our nation's trucking industry. The goal of the Clearinghouse is to flag drivers who are prohibited from operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) on public roads based on DOT drug and alcohol program violations. The database will provide real-time access and updates so that employers can see if a driver applicant has had a previous positive or refusal test. It will also check the status on completion of Return-to-Duty (RTD) processes with a Substance Abuse Professional (SAP).

In the past, the lack of a central database for drug and alcohol screening test results meant people with violations on their record could often simply move to a different city or state if they were fired from a different employer for drinking or using drugs on the job.

The Clearinghouse eliminates that loophole. Additionally, drug and alcohol violation information stays in the Clearinghouse for five years, where it is easily visible to carriers and businesses in the trucking industry.

Who will be affected by the Clearinghouse?

Most likely YOU and everyone you work with — and that includes:

  • Drivers who are commercial driver’s license (CDL) and commercial learner’s permit (CLP) holders; including but not limited to: School bus drivers, Construction equipment operators, Limousine drivers; Municipal vehicle drivers (e.g., waste management vehicles), Federal and other organizations that employ drivers subject to FMCSA drug and alcohol testing regulations (e.g., Department of Defense, municipalities, school districts)
  • Employers (this includes motor carriers and other employers with drivers operating CMVs that require a CDL or CLP)
  • Consortia/Third-Party Administrators (C/TPAs)
  • Medical Review Officers (MROs)
  • Substance Abuse Professionals (SAPs)
  • State Driver Licensing Agencies (SDLAs)
  • Federal Enforcement Personnel

Technically, Clearinghouse registration is not a required step for drivers. If a driver is never required to consent to a pre-employment or other full query, and never incurs a drug or alcohol violation, then the driver will not need to register for the Clearinghouse. However, drivers may choose to sign up so they can view their own record, provide consent to current or prospective employers to access details about any drug and alcohol program violations, and select a Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) if needed.

Owner-Operators must also register and perform annual inquiries on themselves as they are both the motor carrier and driver. Under the Clearinghouse final rule, an employer who employs himself or herself as a CDL driver must designate a consortium/third-party administrator (C/TPA) to comply with the employer’s Clearinghouse reporting requirement.

Here are a few more points you need to know:

  • If a driver had a drug and alcohol violation in one state it will follow them to all other states. The FMCSA will notify the driver every time information about them is added, revised or removed from the Clearinghouse. Drivers can request corrections to their Clearinghouse record.
  • Employers must query the Clearinghouse at least once per year for each driver and maintain records of all queries and information obtained in response to the query, for a period of three years.  On January 6, 2023, employers are no longer required to also request information from the driver's previous FMCSA-regulated employers; a query of the Clearinghouse will satisfy that requirement.
  • Mexican or Canadian employers, employees, or service agents operating in the United States that are subject to FMCSA drug and alcohol-testing requirements must comply with the Clearinghouse final rule.
  • The Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse statute allows the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to collect Clearinghouse fees for performing queries. Employers can choose query bundles (starting at $1.25 per query) that fit their individual needs.

For Frequently Asked Questions on the Clearinghouse visit:

For more information, and resources for motor carriers and drivers visit:

Tags: Safety | Fleet Management

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