This coming January will mark the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration’s Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse’s third anniversary and the date that the U.S. Department of Transportation deems the database to be fully implemented.
What does this mean for motor carriers and their partners in the drug and alcohol testing industry?
As of January 6, 2023, carriers will be able to run all pre-employment queries for drug and alcohol violations through the Clearinghouse before hiring commercial drivers. They will no longer be required to reach out to previous employers for drug-and-alcohol testing information manually.
This change greatly streamlines the pre-employment process for employers of CDL drivers. Prospective employers will no longer have to rely on the recordkeeping standards and responsiveness of previous employers to make hiring decisions, at a time when there is a national shortage of commercial drivers.
The Regulatory Language
According to the regulatory language in 49 CFR 391.23, employers must conduct a background investigation before hiring a commercial driver to determine whether the prospective employee has violated DOT drug and alcohol regulations within the past three years. On January 6, the Clearinghouse will have gathered sufficient data to fully meet this requirement.
If a past violation is recorded in the Clearinghouse, it remains the employer’s responsibility to investigate further and follow up with previous employers to ensure that the prospective commercial driver has completed all required return to duty and follow-up procedures before they get behind the wheel.
Keep in mind, the Clearinghouse only gathers data for drivers employed by FMCSA-regulated employers. If a prospective employee has worked in a safety-sensitive role for any other DOT-regulated mode of transportation (FAA, FRA, FTA, PHMSA, USCG) within three years, the employer must collect drug and alcohol testing records manually from the non-FMCSA employers.
To Come in 2024
Another Clearinghouse enhancement is slated for late 2024. As of November 18, 2024, state driver licensing agencies will be required to run queries through the Clearinghouse before issuing, renewing or upgrading a CDL. They will also become responsible for downgrading CDL holders with a violation recorded in the Clearinghouse.
When the two systems are linked, employers of commercial drivers can avoid the risk of putting drivers on the road who have a drug and alcohol violation recorded in the Clearinghouse and are in prohibitive status, but still hold a valid CDL.
Since September 2019, more than three million CDL drivers and 420,000 motor carriers have registered with the FMCSA Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse. According to the October 2022 Clearinghouse report, a total of 171,957 drug-related violations have been reported to the Clearinghouse, including positive drug tests, refusals to test, and actual knowledge of a drug violation. Marijuana is the most common substance detected, with more than 95,000 positive tests.