How the DOT Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse Will Benefit Carriers

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August 9, 2019

The Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse is a database designed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), part of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to keep CDL holders with drug and alcohol related violations off the road.

The final rule for the Commercial Driver’s License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse was published by Congressional mandate in December 2016. Registration will become operational and mandatory beginning January 6, 2020, and users can create accounts within the system beginning fall of 2019.

What is the CDL Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse?

The CDL clearinghouse rule is designed to make it harder for drivers with violations to get hired and to keep the roads safer. Drivers, carriers, and fleet managers alike will have use of the clearinghouse, including the following information about drivers relating to drugs and alcohol:

  • Drug and alcohol test results
  • Refused required drug and alcohol tests
  • Driver participation in the return-to-duty drug and alcohol rehabilitation process

The Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse for CDL holders

With the new rule, CDL holders have some new responsibilities. They are now are required to register and report test information to the clearinghouse. Drivers will be able to query the clearinghouse and access their own report information for free. They will also be notified by mail any time their information is updated or removed. Records of driver violations will be available to authorized employers for five years from the date of the violation, or until the driver completes the return-to-duty process.

Drivers should know that clearinghouse data is subject to the requirements of the Privacy Act. Current employers and prospective employers will be able to view driver information only with written consent from the driver. Drivers also have the right to appeal any inaccurate information in their record and have their employers notified if information is corrected or removed based on a driver appeal. Additionally, to protect driver identity from potential cyberattacks, individual social security numbers will not be stored in the secure online database.

The CDL Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse brings new carrier responsibilities

The majority of the new responsibility with the FMCSA Drug Clearinghouse falls on carriers:

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  • The new rule requires employers to query the system online during the pre-employment screening process for any prospective driver of a commercial motor vehicle (CMV).
  • Employers will also be required to report drug and alcohol violations (for example, alcohol use and positive drug test results) and relevant related information to the clearinghouse regarding all CDL-drivers on staff.
  • Employers using third-party administrators and service agents, such as drug and alcohol testing consortiums, will be required to register their agents with the clearinghouse.
  • Employers are also required to query the system annually to determine if any current employees have received drug or alcohol violations while working with a previous employer.

How carriers will benefit from the DOT Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse

While implementing new policies and procedures may cause headaches, this one will be well worth the effort. Keeping unsafe drivers off the road is essential to the safety and well-being of your entire fleet. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits for fleets.

How carriers can coach drivers to meet safety goals

The clearinghouse will improve the hiring process by making it easier to eliminate drivers with an overwhelming history of drug and alcohol violations before they are hired. However, not every driver with a violation deserves to be eliminated from the hiring pool; you can use driver behavior management software to improve safe driving habits and coach better behavior from drivers in the future.

PSPs and fleet managers

Reports from the Pre-employment Screening Program (PSP) are for individual drivers and are used as a hiring tool to screen drivers with a history of safety violations and/or drug and alcohol violations.

The clearinghouse should have a positive impact on PSPs for fleet managers. Prior to the clearinghouse, drug violations were reported directly by CDL holders, making it easy for a driver and owner-operator to hide a positive test result or violation. The new system will make test information centralized and easy to access. Additionally, PSP scores of individual drivers can also have an overall influence on carrier CSA score.

How carriers can help lower their CSA scores

Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) scores are important for each and every carrier. The higher the CSA score, the more likely the FMCSA rates the carrier to be involved in an accident. The lower the CSA score, the better.

Employers with high CSA scores can utilize the clearinghouse as a tool to improve the overall safety of their fleet, and customers are less likely to hire a fleet with a high CSA score. Employers can leverage data found in the clearinghouse to create hiring policies centered around hiring safe drivers. The more frequently a carrier chooses to hire a driver with a safe record, the more likely they will be able to lower their CSA score.

The CDL Clearinghouse adds additional steps to the driver hiring process and to employer administrative efforts. But the benefit to the safety of the wider trucking industry and all public road users it brings certainly makes the extra effort worthwhile. Connect with us to learn how our compliance software can help you streamline your processes and procedures.

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