Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Clearinghouse Introduction
What is “The Clearinghouse”?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Clearinghouse is a database of information relating to drug and alcohol testing violations (such as positives and test refusals) for FMCSA-regulated workers (such as CDL holders that drive semi-trucks and school bus drivers). In cases where a driver violates the Federal drug or alcohol testing Rules, the Clearinghouse will also contain information relating to the driver’s return-to-duty status [e.g. Has s/he completed the substance abuse rehabilitation process and passed a clean ‘return to duty’ test, etc.]
When must regulated employers comply with and participate in the Clearinghouse?
Employers should register NOW, and they MUST begin using and reporting data to the Clearinghouse starting January 6, 2020.
C/TPAs, regulated employees, MROs, SAPs, and state driver license agencies should also register now.
The web address to register for the Clearinghouse is: https://clearinghouse.fmcsa.dot.gov/
How to register for the Clearinghouse . . .
You must create a login.gov account first, then complete registration in the Clearinghouse. Start here: https://clearinghouse.fmcsa.dot.gov/
Employers will enter their portal credentials and DOT number (if they have one).
- Drivers will enter their CDL number.
- Self-employed owner-operators will be asked to identify a C/TPA.
- MROs and SAPs will need to confirm that they meet the Part 40 requirements.
If you have questions regarding the Clearinghouse process, you may email them at: email@example.com
What is the purpose of the Clearinghouse?
Roadway safety! The Clearinghouse will:
- make it easier for employers to meet pre-employment investigation and reporting obligations,
- make it harder for drivers to hide their drug & alcohol violations from employers,
- allow authorized users will have access to real-time drivers’ violation information, and
- make it easier for the FMCSA to determine employer compliance with drug & alcohol testing Rules.
What are FMCSA-regulated employers required to do in the Clearinghouse?
Regulated employers must start using the Clearinghouse on 01/06/2020 to report violations and related information, and query (check/search) the Clearinghouse for driver records.
Employers may also:
- Manage/add assistants
- Manage/add C/TPAs
- Purchase query plans
Employers: You are required to pay for the queries. The cost is $1.25 each, or an unlimited annual plan is $24,500 per year.
The page where employers (and designated C/TPAs) will report violations will look like this:
Timing of Reporting Information
- Violations must be entered into the Clearinghouse within three (3) business days by regulated Employers.
- Medical Review Officers (MROs) have two (2) business days to report positive, adulterated, or substituted drug test results; and 2 days to report refusals to test (drugs) as specified in Part 40.191.
- MROs have one (1) day to report if there is a change in the result of a verified test [such as the split test coming back negative].
- After a substance abuse professional (SAP) evaluates an employee, the SAP must enter the information in the Clearinghouse by the close of the following day.
- SAPs also have until the close of the following day to report when an employee has completed the RTD process and is eligible for RTD testing.
Must Collectors & BATs register for the Clearinghouse?
Specimen Collectors and Alcohol Testing Technicians (BATs/STTs) do not register for the Clearinghouse, since BATs and Collectors will not be reporting information to the Clearinghouse.
BATs report positive alcohol test results to the employer, and it is the employer’s duty to enter this into the Clearinghouse.
Collectors simply collect urine specimens and send them to the laboratory for testing; and positive drug test results must be verified by an MRO, and then it is the MRO’s duty to report these to the Clearinghouse.
What information must employers (or their C/TPA acting on their behalf) report to the Clearinghouse?
- Alcohol confirmation test results of 0.04% or greater.
- Alcohol test refusals by employees (outlined in 49 CFR Part 40.261).
- Employer’s actual knowledge of alcohol use by an employee (as specified in 49 CFR Part 382.107) – the driver has used alcohol on duty, used alcohol within 4 hours of coming on duty, used alcohol prior to post-accident testing, or has used a controlled substance.
- Negative return-to-duty test results (for alcohol and/or drugs, as applicable)
- Completion of follow-up testing.
- Be sure to enter the information by the close of the 3rd business day!
Regarding Clearinghouse Reporting
Employers will NOT report information for violations that occurred prior to January 6, 2020. Driver information should be entered into the Clearinghouse by employers and MROs even if the driver him/herself is not registered. Enter the information by CDL number and state.
Driver violation data will be kept in the Clearinghouse for 5 years (or indefinitely if the driver does not complete the return-to-duty process). Only FMCSA-regulated employee info should be entered into the Clearinghouse.
Do not report testing violation information for other Department of Transportation (DOT) modes [e.g. FTA, FRA, PHMSA, FAA]
Regarding Clearinghouse Searching
Beginning on the implementation date (01/06/2020), employers must conduct both a Clearinghouse query (search) and a manual search regarding driver history [pre-employment].
Starting January 6, 2023, employers will only need to do an electronic (Clearinghouse) query in conducting their pre-employment background checks for commercial motor vehicle drivers.
Employers and C/TPAs will have the option of using a tab separated value (TSV) spreadsheet to search multiple driver records (rather than having to enter and search each driver record individually). Employers may find this useful for the mandatory annual queries.
Annual Query of Driver Records Required
Effective January 6, 2020, employers must conduct an annual search of the Clearinghouse for every regulated driver. Although the FMCSA allows employers to conduct this “annual query” anytime 01/06/2020 or later, it is recommended that employers not conduct this search immediately on implementation date, since there will be little-to-no data in the Clearinghouse initially.
Employers have until January 5, 2021 to conduct the first Annual Query on each of their drivers. Be sure to keep detailed records of each search/query that is conducted on every employee and records of every pre-employment query/search.
Two Types of Queries (searches)
Limited Query — May use for Annual Check and Periodic/Ad Hoc checks
Full Query — Use for pre-employment check, Periodic/Ad Hoc checks, and if Limited Query returned records found
If you run a Limited Query and there are driver records found, you can convert it to a Full Query to get the details without being charged for another Query.
Is consent required to search driver records in the Clearinghouse?
Yes. Employers must obtain drivers’ permission to query (search) for both Limited and Full Queries.
- For Limited Queries, you may obtain either electronic permission (in the Clearinghouse) or wet signature consent. (Just be sure to specify the time period the consent covers. Such as, “This consent shall remain effective for the duration of my employment.”
- For Full Queries, you must obtain specific permission from the driver. This is to be either electronic in the Clearinghouse or sent my U.S. Mail.
However, if you do not receive consent from the driver within 24 hours, they must be removed from safety-sensitive duties. Employers should strongly encourage all drivers to register for the Clearinghouse to make the consent process easier and to ensure that consent is provided quickly, when needed!
If a driver refuses to provide Consent to an employer, they must be removed from safety-sensitive (covered/regulated) duties.
Remember, you cannot conduct a Query if the driver does not give Consent; and if the driver does not provide Consent, they are not allowed to perform regulated duties under the FMCSA Rules.
Sample of authorized user Query Request or Send Consent page in the Clearinghouse
Purchasing a Query Plan
Employers MUST purchase Query credits in advance. C/TPAs may not purchase queries – Only regulated employers may actually purchase the queries or query plans. Query plans are available to purchase NOW.
It is recommended that employers purchase the number of queries initially to cover the required number of annual queries that they will need to conduct.
- Example: If you have 100 FMCSA-regulated drivers, purchase at least 100 Queries initially.
Employers may pay for the queries/query plan with electronic bank transfer (ACH); credit cards (Visa, Mastercard, AMEX, Discover); debit cards (Visa and Mastercard); Digital Wallet (Amazon Pay and PayPal).
May drivers challenge inaccurate information in the Clearinghouse?
Yes. If a driver feels the Clearinghouse contains inaccurate information, s/he may submit a petition via FMCSA’s Data Qs. The FMCSA will then review the petition and make a decision whether to remove, retain, or correct the information and the reasoning for the decision.
- Drivers may challenge:
- the accuracy of information reported to the Clearinghouse, and
- a report of ‘actual knowledge’ of a driver being under the influence of drugs or alcohol while driving a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) that did not result in a conviction.
Accuracy of test results and Refusals may not be challenged by a driver.
BATs/STTs and Collectors must start using CDL number and State instead of ID# or SSN on Federal testing forms
Although BATs & Collectors do not register for or enter information into the Clearinghouse, they do have a role in ensuring the success of the Clearinghouse.
Alcohol testing technicians (including breath alcohol technicians and screening test technicians), as well as Specimen Collectors for D.O.T. drug and alcohol testing must start using the driver’s Commercial Driver’s License number and State-issued on Alcohol Testing Forms (ATFs) and Federal Custody and Control Forms (CCFs) beginning January 6, 2020.
CCF Example – Use CDL Number & State for ID#
ATF Example – Use CDL Number & State for ID#
Reminder, to register for the Clearinghouse, visit: https://clearinghouse.fmcsa.dot.gov/
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The information presented here is meant to provide general information and guidance. Information is deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Legal advice must be provided in the course of an attorney-client relationship specifically with reference to all the facts of the particular situation under consideration. Such is not the case here, and accordingly, the information presented here must not be relied on as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed attorney and/or the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of the General Counsel. When in doubt, check with your corporate legal counsel and/or the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of the General Counsel or an agent of the operating agency that covers your industry. Certified Training Solutions is not responsible or liable for any loss or damage relating to the use of the information in this article. Before relying on the material in any important matter, users should carefully evaluate its accuracy, currency, completeness and relevance for their purposes, and should obtain any appropriate professional advice relevant to their particular circumstances.
Copyright Certified Training Solutions December 2019