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Ebook | What You Need to Know About the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse

In January 2020, a new program will come into effect that will impact the way carriers and CDL driver recruiters qualify and hire drivers. The new system is being developed by FMCSA and an internal US DOT partner and will make it easier for carriers to identify drivers who have tested positive for a DOT drug or alcohol test. This will be possible thanks to a digital database (called a clearinghouse) of all positive drug and alcohol tests, which carriers and recruiters will be required to query as part of the CDL driver hiring process. 

While this program will add new processes to the CDL recruiters’ plate, it will also play a key role in the safety of CDL drivers and others on the road. FMCSA estimates that this new program will eliminate nearly 900 crashes every year and will result in a benefit of around $196 million. On the flip side, carriers and CDL driver recruiters will be intimately involved with most aspects of the program. 

Here are a few ways carriers stand to engage with the new Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse program:

Registration: In order to ensure the clearinghouse is as up-to-date and real-time as possible, all carriers will be required to register with the clearinghouse. This will also allow carriers to log in and access driver applicant information on a regular basis. Carriers will have to supply a list of authorized users to the clearinghouse (including third-parties) and update this list on a regular basis. 

Previous employer inquiries: During the application process, carriers must request a ‘full query’ from the clearinghouse before any driver performs safety-protected duties, including operating a CMV. From January 2023 and onward, however, carriers will no longer be required to contact previous employers to request drug & alcohol history information.  

Limited annual queries: Once a year, carriers will have to request ‘limited queries’ of drivers and applicants to ensure no new data was added to the clearinghouse that might make a driver ineligible to operate a CMV. 

Driver consent: Under this new rule, driver consent will be required for all queries run through the clearinghouse. This means that drivers will know when their personal records are being accessed. The consent process is different for both the ‘full query’ and ‘limited query’ options, so make sure you know which one to use when the time comes.  

Data uploads: Within three days of a new occurrence (a positive test, a refused test, etc.) carriers will be required to update the clearinghouse with this new information. 

Records: All carriers and recruiters must now maintain drug and alcohol violation records for at least five years. Registering with the clearinghouse and monitoring employee drug and alcohol tests in that platform will fulfill this requirement. 

Working with the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse throughout the CDL recruiting process will not be easy. From updating current onboarding programs to ensuring all drivers and applicants are well aware of this new process, there will be a lot to do. In order to ensure the shift to this new program runs smoothly, here are three suggestions we’ve made in order to improve the process: 

  1. Run limited queries during the pre-employment process and during annual record checks
  2. Streamline the driver consent workflow when processing queries
  3. Extend the carrier notification process past the current 30-day window

DriverReach took the time to outline the entire program from start to finish for recruiters. We’ve also outlined the major shift in roles and responsibilities for stakeholders across the driver recruiting process. You can download our newest ebook, Brace Yourself: The Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse Brings New Challenges to Recruiting Drivers here. 


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