The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has announced that users can now create secure online accounts in the new commercial driver drug and alcohol clearinghouse.
FMCSA officials said on Tuesday that they are urging all commercial driver license holders, their employers, medical review officers (MRO), consortia and third-party officials (C/TPA), and substance abuse professionals (SAP) to register at no cost for the clearinghouse. By doing this, FMCSA said they will have completed the necessary steps to be ready when the clearinghouse is operational on Jan. 6, 2020.
The clearinghouse is a centralized database that employers will use to report drug and alcohol program violations. The database can also be used to check that current or prospective employees are not prohibited from operating a commercial motor vehicle, “due to an unresolved drug and alcohol program violation—that is, a violation for which the driver has not completed the return-to-duty (RTD) process,” FMCSA said.
FMCSA officials stressed that this query “must be conducted as part of a pre-employment driver investigation, and at least annually for current employees.”
In addition, employers “may designate a C/TPA who can report violations and/or conduct queries on their behalf. An owner-operator—an employer that employs himself or herself as a CDL driver, typically a single-driver operation—must designate the C/TPA in the clearinghouse.”
FMCSA said organizations can have more than one clearinghouse user. Each user will be managed by a company or school district representative, who will then serve as a clearinghouse administrator to manage that organization’s account.
The FMCSA said that drivers will be able to access their own information in the clearinghouse. “Once a driver has registered in the clearinghouse, he or she will be able to access his or her clearinghouse record electronically, at no cost,” FMCSA stated. “This record would include any drug ad alcohol program violation information available in the Clearinghouse, along with the status of their return-to-duty process, if applicable.”
However, CDL drivers will not be required to register for the clearinghouse.
“[A] driver will need to be registered to provide electronic consent in the clearinghouse if a prospective or current employer needs to conduct a full query of the driver’s record—this will include all pre-employment queries beginning on Jan. 6,” FMCSA explained.
A driver must also be registered if they want to be able to electronically view the information in their personal clearinghouse record.
Drivers who register before Jan. 6 will have their clearinghouse accounts and contact preferences set up so they can quickly respond to query requests from employers on or after Jan. 6.
Once a driver is registered, the clearinghouse will notify them by either U.S. mail or email. The notification also includes any instances that information about the driver is added, revised or removed. If the driver has not yet registered for the clearinghouse, notifications will be sent by mail using the address that is associated with the driver’s CDL.
Employers, C/TPAs, MROs and SAPs will identify a person for their company to serve as a clearinghouse administrator. These clearinghouse administrators have the option to invite users to serve in an assistant role, which will allow them to use the Clearinghouse on their organization’s behalf.
Employers that require a USDOT number, including a small number of private school bus contractors, will manage the clearinghouse administrator and assistant roles via the FMCSA Portal. Other clearinghouse administrators will be able to invite and manage assistants once they are registered in the clearinghouse.
Authorized users must register to request access to information in the clearinghouse.
What is a Query
A query is an electronic search in the clearinghouse, which is conducted by an employer or its designated C/TPA, in order to determine if current or prospective employees are prohibited from operating a commercial motor vehicle, due to unresolved drug and alcohol program violations.
FMCSA officials explained there are two types of queries. Limited queries satisfy the annual query requirement, and full queries include all pre-employment queries. Queries do require the driver’s consent, and the type of consent depends on the type of query that is being made.
Purchasing a Query Plan
While clearinghouse registration is free of charge, all employers must purchase a query plan to conduct queries of their drivers’ records. The purchase also covers queries made by the company’s C/TPAs.
Beginning this fall, registered employers can log into their clearinghouse accounts to buy their query plan, which can only be purchased from the FMCSA Clearinghouse.
Driver Violations and Return to Duty Data
Employers and C/TPAs that are acting on their behalf will be able to enter drug and alcohol program violation information into the clearinghouse.
MROs can also enter drug violation information. A driver does not need to be registered in the clearinghouse for a violation to be added to their clearinghouse record. In particular:
- Substance abuse professionals (SAPs) enter the date of the initial assessment and date the driver is eligible for RTD testing.
- Employers will enter the negative RTD test result(s) and the date the driver’s follow-up testing plan is successfully completed. Violations entered by the employer or MRO link to a driver’s CDL details. “This will be recorded even if the driver has not registered for the Clearinghouse,” said FMCSA.
However, a C/TPA cannot register an employer for the clearinghouse on their behalf. “As part of the clearinghouse registration process, each authorized user must obtain their own unique login.gov credentials and will use these credentials to access the clearinghouse. For security reasons, a user verification process must be completed to ensure that only the authorized user is using their credentials,” confirmed FMCSA.
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