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The Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse: Understanding Testing Policies (Part 4)

Every carrier or employer of CDL drivers will have to go through multiple steps in order to be compliant with FMCSA’s Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse. Recent DriverReach blogs have discussed how to register for the Clearinghouse as well as the different query plans available. Once you’re set up and ready to use the Clearinghouse, however, doesn’t mean that your team is off the hook. One Clearinghouse regulation (382.601(b)(12)) also requires all carriers to update their DOT misuse of alcohol and controlled substances policy.

During a recent webinar, Dave Osiecki and Sean Garney, President and Vice President of Scopelitis Transportation, walked through how carriers should tackle updating this policy as well as a few other internal policies that might need to be addressed or updated in this new Clearinghouse-focused world of CDL recruiting.

Here is a list of requirements that must be added to your drug and alcohol testing policy:

  • Verified positive, adulterated or submitted drug test results
  • An alcohol confirmation tested of >/= .04
  • A refusal to submit any required test
  • An employer’s report of actual knowledge
  • On duty alcohol use
  • Pre-duty alcohol use
  • Alcohol use following an accident
  • Controlled substance use
  • SAPs report of successful completion of RTD process
  • A negative return-to-duty test
  • Employer’s report of completion of follow-up testing

A best practice for safety departments is to go to the Clearinghouse page for 382.601(b)(12) and copy these outlined regulations to your updated drug & alcohol testing policy page. Another page your team will have to think about is the limited query consent form, which must be signed by all new and current drivers before you can perform the mandatory annual review.

Here are three questions to ask about the limited query consent form:

  1. How long is this valid for? A good baseline is to make these consent forms valid the entirety of a driver’s employment.
  2. How many queries does this form cover? A best practice is to keep this language broad enough that it would cover as many limited queries as possible.
  3. Should we require a physical signature or electronic signature? This is up to you but, like your driver application, an electronic signature is easier for drivers and facilitates a smoother consent process.

One part of the Clearinghouse policy process that recruiters will have particular responsibility over is record availability and retention. Regardless of how your team stores consent forms, queries themselves, and the results of these queries, the record responsibility will fall to the carrier. All driver records will remain in the Clearinghouse until RTD is complete and five years have passed since the violation (382.719(a)). Employers must also retain a record of each query and the results received on these queries until January 6, 2023, as well as records of all drug and alcohol violations for a minimum of five years. Signed limited query consent forms from drivers must be kept for three years (382.703(a)). Simply put – organization during this stage will be critical.

Here are a few other policy considerations that all carriers and CDL driver recruiters must consider over the next few months as both your internal team and your drivers settle in to using the Clearinghouse:

  • The driver hiring process: verifying a driver is registered and ready to consent during your hiring process.  Your team must be able to provide information on where and how to register, as well as at what point during the hiring process you are going to run pre-employment full queries.
  • Driver query consent: are you going to ask all of your current drivers to give query consent at the same time or will you phase it out? You can phase this out, but you should plan to have a process in place early on.
  • Updated driver consent forms: in order to keep track of these driver consent forms, will you add this new form to your existing file of consent forms for each driver? Additionally, carriers must decide how long these consent forms are good for and how many queries they allow for on an annual basis.
  • Actual knowledge and refusal policies: your team must be educated and trained on how to use the Clearinghouse and how to handle documentation and information.
  • A driver’s right to appeal: drivers have the right to appeal certain information that goes into the Clearinghouse, so drivers need to be informed of this right and your team must know how to handle these appeals when they happen.

Still have questions about the Clearinghouse? You can listen to our in-depth on-demand webinar, The Time to Prepare is Now! Your Recruiting and Compliance Action Plan for the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse, co-hosted by Dave Osiecki and Sean Garney of Scopelitis Transportation here.

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