This post is part of a series sponsored by IAT Insurance Group.
Drug and alcohol violations have increased by 10.2% for truckers, making it more important than ever for motor carriers to utilize the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse.
Implemented by the Department of Transportation (DOT) in early 2020, the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse is an electronic database that tracks commercial driver’s license holders who test positive for drug or alcohol use and the results of the required return-to-duty (RTD) protocol. The Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse can help carriers hire better and prevent drivers from job-hopping after testing positive, which ultimately helps improve roadside safety.
Clearinghouse requirements apply to drivers operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) with a gross weight greater than 26,000 pounds, or who haul items requiring DOT hazmat placards. Most fleet carriers are aware of this rule, but many independent moving and storage operators are unaware of the regulation and how it relates to their drivers.
The number of positive drug-test violations increased in 2021, further displaying the importance of Clearinghouse queries. While possession of cannabis is legal in many states, the transportation of marijuana across state lines is still illegal federally. A moving and storage company could face repercussions if they fail to report their drivers’ cannabis-related offenses to the Clearinghouse.
What should I know about the Clearinghouse?
For moving and storage fleet operators that may be scrambling to comply with this mandate, one of the most helpful features of the Clearinghouse is the ability to hire third-party authorized service agents to report violations and manage queries on a commercial fleet’s behalf. This has been in place since the Clearinghouse was established in 2020.
A game-changer and time-saver, third-party agents allow independent moving and storage operators to get back to work and focus on their business. Each year, a limited query must be drawn for every driver and a full query pulled from the Clearinghouse when employing each new driver.
Moving and storage fleet owners should keep the following in mind when using the Clearinghouse:
- All employers are required to administer a full query to the Clearinghouse for all pre-employees and current employees for drug and alcohol violations before an employee can operate a CMV.
- Annually, employers must conduct a limited query to the Clearinghouse for all drivers currently employed.
- All employers are charged a fee to conduct full and limited queries.
- Employers are required to report violations by the close of the third business day following the date in which the employer was notified.
- Violations stay on record for five years from the date of the violation, or until a violation is resolved. Drivers must complete a return-to-duty (RTD) process and follow-up testing with a Substance Abuse Professional (SAP).
Using third-party service agents to keep up with the ongoing querying paperwork and helps keep carriers in good standing. However, not adhering to DOT standards has its own repercussions.
The consequences of non-compliance
Failure to update the Clearinghouse for each employee can result in a license downgrade for CMV drivers until an RTD and a follow-up testing plan prescribed by an SAP is completed. False information submitted to the Clearinghouse also puts motor carriers and agents at risk of criminal and/or civil penalties.
Drivers looking for a new job must register to provide electronic consent to prospective and current employers that need to perform a query of the driver’s Clearinghouse record.
By Nancy Ross-Anderson
 Freightwaves “FMCSA-reported drug-test violations grew 10% in 2021,” February 4, 2022.
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