By Chad Engle, Loss Prevention and Safety Specialist
Lately I have been fielding questions relating to the Department of Transportation’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse (Clearinghouse). Everything from “Do I have to do this?” to “What is it?”, so it seemed like a good topic to review as we approach year-end.
The Clearinghouse is an online database that provides employers, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), State Driver Licensing Agencies (SDLAs), and State law enforcement personnel real-time information about commercial driver license (CDL) and commercial learner’s permit (CLP) holders’ drug and alcohol program violations. The Clearinghouse contains records of violations of drug and alcohol prohibitions, including positive drug or alcohol test results and test refusals. When a driver completes the return-to-duty (RTD) process and follow-up testing plan, this information is also recorded in the Clearinghouse. The Clearinghouse only houses information related to DOT drug and alcohol testing, it does not house anything regarding traffic tickets or moving violations.
Each employer (County) should appoint a person to perform the duties of the Clearinghouse Administrator. This person will manage the drivers on behalf of the County. The Administrator will report drug and alcohol program violations and conduct queries. Queries are checks to determine that current or prospective employees are not prohibited from driving a commercial motor vehicle due to an unresolved drug and alcohol program violation. Queries must be conducted as part of a pre-employment driver investigation and annually for current drivers. Pre-employment queries shall be full queries while the annual queries shall be limited.
A query requires consent from a driver. Limited queries, which only determine if a driver has any information about resolved or unresolved drug and alcohol violations, require only a general driver consent. A general driver consent is obtained outside of the Clearinghouse, is not required on an annual basis, and it may be effective for more than one year. However, the limited consent request must specify the timeframe the driver is providing consent for.
A full query allows the County to see detailed information about any drug and alcohol program violations in a driver’s Clearinghouse record. The County must obtain the driver’s electronic consent in the Clearinghouse prior to the release of detailed violation information during the full query. Until the Clearinghouse has been in place for three years, when Counties hire new CDL holders they will need to request the drug and alcohol information from previous employers and perform a query on the Clearinghouse.