Home News What to Know about the New FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse

What to Know about the New FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse

by Kevin Bellah
FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse

It isn’t often that California feels the ripple effects of events all the way in New Hampshire, but that’s the case with new regulations pertaining to commercial driver’s license employers.

In June 2019, a truck driver killed seven people in a collision in Randolph, NH. Not only was he found to be intoxicated at the time of the incident, but it was revealed that he had a documented history of driving under the influence while driving personal and commercial vehicles. 

Now, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is taking steps to make sure such an incident won’t happen again—and they’re going to affect California business owners like you.

The Basics of the FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse

The goal of the FMCSA clearinghouse is to get all risky behaviors by commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders to be reported to one central location. This means that if you employ someone to drive for your company, you’ll be responsible for reporting failed and refused drug tests to the clearinghouse from January 6, 2020 and onward. You must report within three days of the incident. 

The steps for reporting include the following:

  •  Go to the clearinghouse website and log in to your account.
  • Select your registered driver and click to report a violation
  • Provide the name, date of birth, commercial driver’s license (CDL) number, and state of issuance for the employee
  • Give your name, address, and USDOT number
  • Document the date you learned of the violation
  • List any witnesses to the violation with their contact information
  •  Describe the violation in detail
  • Give any evidence supporting your claim that a violation took place
  • Documentation proving you gave the employee all information you have reported

Other responsibilities you’ll have are:

  • Registering with the clearinghouse every five years
  • Purchasing a query bundle
  • Updating internal policies to reflect compliance with the clearinghouse
  • Altering driver education materials to reference the clearinghouse

Once the government has the online database is up and running, you’ll have real-time access to it. You’ll be required to query the clearinghouse for employees both during the hiring process and once a year to ensure their record is still stellar. This makes it easier for you to vet drivers who may have failed drug tests in other states or who otherwise might be concealing an imperfect driving record from you, in turn boosting your reputation and keeping your commercial auto insurance premiums low.

The Limits of the Clearinghouse

This new program is needed, and will no doubt be highly beneficial. However, it has its limits. The greatest of which is that its records will only extend as far back as January 6, 2020—its launch date. This means that it isn’t likely to prove too useful for a few years. The data will also be cleared every five years or after the return-to-duty process has been completed by the driver.

How to Gear Up for the FMCSA Clearinghouse

Start with educating your drivers. Make sure they understand that just because a substance is legal doesn’t mean it can be used while driving or kept in the cab of their vehicle. In California, recreational marijuana is legal. Yet just like alcohol is okay for those of legal age, there are still limits on its use, and drivers can’t be high on marijuana while operating a vehicle. Take time to give your drivers a refresher course on what is and isn’t legal and make sure they understand that refused drug screenings will be reported the same as positive ones.

From there, get drivers to start registering with the clearinghouse. Without this, you won’t have permission to run queries on them. Let them know they can obtain their report for free at any time and make sure they understand when you’ll be required to run reports on them.

Next, begin working with your supervisors. Train them on how to spot signs that a driver may be at risk and what steps they should take if they think they’re noticing a problem. Put a substance abuse policy in place and ensure they enforce it without fail. Make sure the policy is specific—“no drugs allowed” isn’t sufficient.

Then speak with your counsel. Labor attorneys can help review your current policies to see if there are areas of weakness you should address, even if not specifically for the clearinghouse. Making certain your policies are thorough and on the right side of the law is never a bad idea.

Leap | Carpenter | Kemps Insurance Agency Helps Protect Your Business

Starting January 6, you’ll need to be in compliance with the FMCSA clearinghouse. But this alone does not fully protect your business. Sometimes issues slip through the cracks, and it’s up to your commercial auto insurance policy to keep you safe. At LCK, we can tailor your policy to perfectly meet your needs without forcing you to pay for extra. Speak with a dedicated team today to learn more.

About the Guest Author

Shawn Dwyer – Shawn Dwyer, the Vice President of Leap | Carpenter | Kemps Insurance Agency specializes and has a deep understanding of captive insurance, workers’ compensation insurance, general business insurance, and safety and risk management.

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