The newest industry regulation, the FMCSA Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse, went into effect on January 6, 2020. This online database tracks CDL (commercial driver’s license holders) who have tested positive for prohibited drug or alcohol use as well as refusals to take required drug tests in an effort to enhance safety on our nation’s roadways. All employers and their service agents must now populate the Clearinghouse with their employees’ drug and alcohol violations. So, what are the key employer responsibilities for this new regulation and how exactly will it affect the industry going forward?
1. QUERIES OF NEW DRIVERS
Employees will be required to query the Clearinghouse to see if newly hired drivers have any violations. If there are violations, the employer will need to verify if the driver has completed the Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) return-to-duty process. In some instances, the hiring motor carrier may potentially have to inherit the follow-up testing process.
2. ANNUAL QUERIES OF ALL EXISTING DRIVERS
Within every 12-month period, fleets will be required to query all existing drivers that are employed. There are two types of queries:
• Limited Query: determines if any drivers have had a violation at another employer during the annual period with a simple “yes” or “no” response. Driver consent is required, and the employer must keep this consent on file for a recommended time period of at least three years.
• Full Query: if the limited query shows information in the Clearinghouse on a driver, a full query must be performed within 24 hours at a cost of $1.25 per query. This query will provide all information in the system – positive tests, refusals, and SAP final determinations of return-to-duty. As with a limited query, driver consent must be provided.
3. REPORTING ALCOHOL TEST POSITIVES & REFUSALS TO TEST
Employers will be required to report violations of alcohol tests at the 0.04 level or above along with refusals to test. Employers have two serious responsibilities when they have actual knowledge of an employee using drugs or alcohol at work.
1.) Remove the driver from his responsibilities and provide a list of SAP’s available for the return-to-duty process. The employer must document the actual knowledge and keep it on file for at least 5 years.
2.) Report the event with documentation to the Clearinghouse Database.
4. REPORTING NEGATIVE RETURN-TO-DUTY TESTS AND COMPLETION OF FOLLOW-UP TESTING PROGRAMS
For drivers that have a violation and complete the SAP return-to-duty process, the employer conducting the return-to-duty test must report the negative test result to the Clearinghouse. The employer must also report the date once the driver successfully completes the follow-up testing.
5. UPDATING POLICIES TO NOTIFY DRIVERS OF WHAT INFORMATION WILL BE REPORTED TO THE CLEARINGHOUSE
Employers should update and distribute their drug & alcohol testing policies so that drivers are aware of their rights and responsibilities. Providing drivers with information on the following would also be helpful:
• Explanation of the inquiries performed by employers
• Driver procedures on signing up for access to the Clearinghouse
• Information on how drivers may obtain a copy of their Clearinghouse records
• Procedures for correcting information in the database
• Awareness that state licensing authorities will have access to the database
• Clarification on a driver’s obligation to notify a current employer of violations occurring under a different employer
Employers are allowed to authorize service agents to assist with new policies along with reporting violations and conducting queries on their behalf. Authorization is required, and designated service agents must register before accessing or reporting information to the Clearinghouse.
WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN?
Only violations that occur on or after January 6 will be recorded, so it will take some time for this information to build up in the database. Therefore, there will not be an immediate impact to the industry. Whenever the impact hits, it will have a marginal impact on rates and capacity in the truckload sector and should only take a short amount of time for motor carriers to adjust to the new regulations. The best thing that carriers can do now is to continue to educate themselves on the Clearinghouse requirements and update internal policies in order to avoid service disruptions. More information can be found here: https://clearinghouse.fmcsa.dot.gov/Learn.