The U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said it will implement a three-year delay to a provision of its commercial driver drug and alcohol clearinghouse to allow states more time to query information before approving licenses.
However, FMCSA officials wrote in the Federal Register on Friday that states can voluntarily request driver information starting on Jan. 6, 2020, when the rest of the clearinghouse requirements go into effect. The other requirements include drivers and motor carriers registering in the database, a process that began earlier this fall.
FMCSA passed the final rule in December 2016, and registration by drivers and motor carriers began this fall. The clearinghouse is designed to prohibit employment of commercial drivers who have not met return-to-service requirements after previously testing positive for alcohol or drugs. It also requires states to request and receive any information on an individual in the clearinghouse before issuing or renewing a CDL.
Public comments on FMCSA’s extension may be submitted through Jan. 13, 2020.
In October, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association submitted comments in response to FMCSA’s extension proposal that CDL holders might interpret the delay of the state query compliance date as a delay to the entire program, “thus failing to register in time.”
OOIDA also pointed out that states and the commercial vehicle industry have had the same amount of time to prepare for the coming implementation date in January.
OOIDA recommended to FMCSA that it delay the entire final rule. But FMCSA on Friday wrote that it found requests for a full delay “without merit.”
Related: FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse Registration Now Open
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Related: FMCSA Resources for Implementing Upcoming Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse
Several state driver licensing agencies (SDLAs) in October supported FMCSA’s proposal. The Oregon Department of Transportation cited concerns from the American Association of Motor Vehicles Administrators that the final rule lacks details on the type of information states will receive from the clearinghouse, and what actions FMCSA would require state licensing agencies to take upon receiving disqualifying information on CDL holders.
Oregon DOT also asked for an extension of state clearinghouse requirements to issuers of commercial learning permits.
The Drug & Alcohol Testing Industry Association (DATIA) supports the extension, with a caveat. “[W]e have realized that the extension is warranted, though not for the reasons presented in the FMCSA notice, and only if employers are also granted a three-year extension to make mandatory queries,” wrote Linda Wilson, the organization’s executive director, on Oct. 7. “They, too, would be encouraged to voluntarily make queries but would not be required to do so until 2023.”