Understand the FMCSA’s license clearinghouse

Added January 18, 2021
Someone driving a truck

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Commercial Driver’s License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse is a key resource to help you hire safe drivers and promote good driving habits. Learn about how you and your drivers can be compliant with the regulations referenced in the Clearinghouse.

What is the Clearinghouse?

The Clearinghouse is a secure, online database that gives the FMCSA, state driver licensing agencies, state law enforcement personnel, and employers like you real-time access to important information about CDL driver drug and alcohol program violations. The Clearinghouse serves as a central repository of drivers’ positive test results, refusals to test, and other violations of drug and alcohol testing regulations.

Required pre-employment checks

Through January 6, 2023, you’re required to conduct both electronic queries in the Clearinghouse and traditional manual inquiries with previous employers to meet the three-year timeframe required by Section 391.23. This is to ensure candidates are registered and determine whether they have any prior drug or alcohol violations that prohibit them from performing safety-sensitive functions.

After that date, you’ll only have to check the Clearinghouse for candidates subject to DOT testing. Keep in mind, however, that you’ll continue to perform manual employer drug and alcohol queries for candidates who previously weren’t subject to DOT testing. Additionally, you’re required to perform Section 391.23 non-drug-and-alcohol pre-employment inquiries—including motor vehicle records and safety performance history—for all candidates.

Annual inquiries

Along with pre-employment inquiries, perform an annual Clearinghouse inquiry for your current drivers. This means each of your drivers will need to be registered with the Clearinghouse.

These annual checks may be full or limited inquiries and will indicate whether information exists in the Clearinghouse about the driver, but won’t provide specifics:

  • Full inquiries: This requires the driver’s specific consent to release their information through the Clearinghouse.
  • Limited inquiries: This only requires a general driver consent.

If a limited inquiry indicates information exists in the Clearinghouse about a driver, you’ll need to request the driver’s full consent and conduct a full inquiry within 24 hours. Without this consent, the driver won’t be allowed to drive a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) or perform any other safety-sensitive functions.

Reporting requirements

As an employer, you’re required to report the following to the Clearinghouse:

  • Alcohol confirmation tests of 0.04 or greater
  • Negative return-to-duty tests
  • Driver refusal to submit to DOT drug or alcohol tests
  • Reports that drivers successfully completed all follow-up tests ordered by a substance abuse professional (SAP)
  • Actual knowledge violations. This is defined in §382.107 and confirms knowledge by an employer that a driver has used alcohol or controlled substances, based on one or more of the following:
    • Information provided by the driver’s previous employer(s)
    • A traffic citation for driving a CMV while under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances
    • The employee’s admission of alcohol or controlled substance use, except as provided in §382.121
    • The employer’s direct observation of the employee using alcohol or controlled substances
    • It doesn’t include observation of employee behavior or physical characteristics sufficient to warrant reasonable suspicion testing under §382.307

If you receive information regarding an employee’s or candidate’s drug and alcohol violation, report it within three business days after receiving the information. You can only submit DOT-approved drug and alcohol tests to the Clearinghouse.

A medical review officer (MRO) needs to report verified drug test results or refusal-to-test determinations—based on the employee’s inability to provide a sufficient specimen for testing, or the contamination or substitution of the specimen—within two business days of making a determination or verifying the drug test.

Prepare yourself and your drivers

It’s important that you and your drivers familiarize yourselves with related regulations by visiting the FMCSA website. Consult your legal counsel regarding appropriate ways to implement these requirements in your workplace. And remember that we have a range of driver safety resources available at hortica.com.

Our Loss Control & Safety Services team is here to help you put other safety policies in place. Talk with a Hortica specialist to learn more.

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