Making Sense of the CDL Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse

When new regulations and guidelines are introduced into your work, like the new CDL Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, it can feel overwhelming and full of uncertainty.

That’s why we’re taking a few minutes today to break down the answers to some commonly asked questions about the Clearinghouse and what it means for drivers and trucking companies.

Q: How is the CDL Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse different than what’s already in place?
A: Let’s answer this in two parts. First, the actual rule establishing the Clearinghouse does not change anything from what’s already in place requirement-wise in the U.S. Department of Transportation guidelines on drug and alcohol testing.

That said — what does change is where information related to testing and a driver’s records will live. Once in effect in January 2020, the Clearinghouse will be an easily accessed, secure database online for employers, state law enforcement personnel, state driver licensing agencies, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

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Those logging in to the database will be able to pull up information in real-time related to CDL and commercial learner’s permit holders’ drug and alcohol program violations. This will include both records of positive drug or alcohol results, as well as any refusals to take tests.

Also included in the Clearinghouse will be records related to the completion of a return-to-duty process and required testing plan, signifying a driver’s safety to return to the available workforce.

Q: What will the Clearinghouse mean for drivers?
A: As mentioned above, the guidelines for drug and alcohol testing aren’t changing. What’s changing is where those records will be stored and how they’ll be accessed.

There are a few key things for drivers to know:

  1. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has taken steps to ensure the protection of your private information located within the Clearinghouse. The information contained within the database can be accessed only by authorized users, and the FMCSA will be continually reviewing and updating security standards, as needed.
  2. The information contained within the database will be used only by the approved agencies and employers as needed to enforce current drug and alcohol testing standards.
  3. The Clearinghouse will notify you via email or phone anytime information related to your record is added, revised, or removed. There’s a petition process if any incorrect information is reported.
  4. To ensure you have access to your records and receive the notifications mentioned above, you’ll want to register with the Clearinghouse. You can currently sign up to receive a notification when registration opens.

Q: What will the Clearinghouse mean for trucking companies as far as hiring and retention?
A: The database provides employers a way to easily check that current and prospective drivers have no violations that prohibit them from driving. Through the Clearinghouse, you’ll also be able to easily report drug and alcohol program violations, including a driver’s refusal to complete the return-to-duty process.

There are a few key things for companies to know:

  1. In order to stay in compliance, companies must query a driver’s record during the pre-employment driver investigation and again at least once per year during his or her employment.
  2. It’s important to note that the Clearinghouse does not eliminate the need for employers to conduct drug and alcohol three-year pre-employment investigations. At this point, trucking companies still need to perform this investigation with a potential driver’s past employers.
  3. However, on Jan. 6, 2023, after three full years of information are stored in the Clearinghouse, it will no longer be necessary to do outside investigation. A query of the Clearinghouse database will then satisfy the requirement.
  4. Just as with drivers, businesses must also register for the Clearinghouse sometime this fall. You can currently sign up to receive a notification when registration opens.

When you work with WorkHound, you gain a partner dedicated to remaining in the know about the latest regulations and helping your team navigate them. Contact us today to learn more!