FMCSA establishes Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued its final rules establishing the Commercial Driver’s License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse.  It will be the national repository of all drivers who failed drug or alcohol tests, refused to be tested, or violated other related regulations.  The Clearinghouse will go into business on January 6, 2020 for motor carrier compliance.  Trucking companies or their agents will have to register to use the system and have to reregister every five years.  The registration will be revoked if a carrier has not accessed the Clearinghouse for two years.

Trucking companies must report violations of drug and alcohol rules within 3 business days, with the exception of failed drug tests which will be reported by the Medical Review Officer.  Note that it is the carrier’s responsibility to report failed alcohol tests.  If a company becomes involved with a driver who had a previous violation and has been cleared by a Substance Abuse Professional to work again, it must report the negative return-to-duty drug test and the successful completion of the follow-up testing.

Beginning January 6, 2023, motor carriers must check the Clearinghouse before hiring any CDL driver.  If any violations are shown, the driver cannot be hired unless his record indicates a successful completion of the rehabilitation process.  In 2023 companies must start checking the Clearinghouse at least once a year for all current drivers.  FMCSA will charge fees for these queries.  Carriers will also have to have to amend their drug policies to include information about the Clearinghouse process.  In 2020, state licensing agencies will start checking the records when CDLs are applied for, renewed, or upgraded.

A Congressional short-term funding bill signed by President Obama will keep the current hours-of-service 34-hour restart intact.  A wording glitch in a previous appropriations bill left the door open for FMCSA to reinstate the rule that a 34-hour restart must include two periods between 1 AM and 5 AM and could only be used once a week.  In 2014 Congress ordered removal of the previous provisions until FMCSA had a study which could prove the agency’s preferred rule reduced driver fatigue when it was in effect.

FMCSA issued new training rules effective February 7, 2020, for truck drivers seeking a CDL, upgrading the CDL class, or applying for a hazmat endorsement.    Teaching must be done by a registered training provider who has self-certified it has the instructors, facilities and equipment required by the agency.  No specific hours of classroom time or behind-the-wheel time are dictated, but the training agency must certify the student’s mastery of the required knowledge and driving skills.  When the training is completed, the student’s record is certified in a new Training Provider Registry website, and the state licensing agency must verify the training before starting its procedures.

Did you know….. The random drug testing rate in 2017 will remain at 25% of a carrier’s average driver count.  FMCSA will go back to 50% if positive tests ever exceed a 1% level.


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