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Webinar Q&A: The Time to Prepare is NOW! Your Recruiting and Compliance Action Plan for the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse

Did you have a chance to attend webinar, “The Time is NOW! Your Recruiting and Compliance Action Plan For the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse”? We received more questions than we had time to answer in the allotted time frame, so our presenters from Scopelitis Transportation Consulting answered them below in this Q&A-style blog post. If you weren’t able to join the live webinar, don’t worry – you can watch it on-demand anytime!

Question: How do you connect FMCSA portal account with clearinghouse account?

Answer: FMCSA has issued step-by-step registration instructions which can be found here. Before connecting a portal account, the carrier must log into their Company Official Portal Account and designate a Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse (DACH) administrator. For help completing this step, call the FMCSA Contact Center support line at 800-832-5660. 

Question: How do you complete registration doing the FMCSA Portal Login for Step 2 of the process?

Answer: FMCSA has issued step-by-step registration instructions which can be found here. Before connecting a portal account, the carrier must log into their Company Official Portal Account and designate a Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse (DACH) administrator. For help completing this step, call the FMCSA Contact Center support line at 800-832-5660. 

Question: We have about 40 drivers and have not done anything yet, other that read some material. Can you give an overview of what we need to do, registration, etc...? 

Answer: FMCSA maintains a “learning center” website with information on how to properly comply with the rules. The regulations for the Clearinghouse are found in 49 CFR Part 382 Subpart G. 

Question: Do we have to run a driver through the clearinghouse before we hire them? Or do we have 30 days to run it?

Answer: The carrier must run a pre-employment full query prior to allowing the driver to perform any safety sensitive functions (i.e. operate a CMV requiring a CDL). 

Question: We've had some of our drivers register.  They're asking us how do they know they are registered, as the site isn't asking them for their CDL#, Birthdate or anything. 

Answer: Detailed instructions on how drivers can register for the Clearinghouse are available here. Step 13 on page 9 discusses entering the driver’s CDL information. FMCSA has experienced some difficulties early on with driver registrations (particularly owner operators) and has said they have had to delete driver accounts in some cases to allow them to re-register to correct any errors. 

Question: When do we need to register drivers that are already an employee?

Answer: Drivers only need to register if the need to consent to a full query (pre-employment or if a limited query indicates data is available). If a driver will not need to consent to a full query, registration is not required. Even if a driver must be registered (and many will not need to be), an employer cannot perform the registration for a driver.  

Question: Where does the FMCSA specifically state that we must have 382.601 in policy?

Answer:  The regulation is found at 49 CFR Part 382.601(b)(12).  Here’s a link

Question: We have a transit system. Are our DOT drivers (who have CDLs) and Passenger Endorsements required to register in the Clearinghouse?

Answer: The Clearinghouse requirements apply so long as the employee performs any FMCSA-regulated functions and is therefore subject to 49 CFR Part 382. 

That said, drivers only need to register if the need to consent to a full query (pre-employment or if a limited query indicates data is available). If a driver will not need to consent to a full query, registration is not required. 

Question: For current employees, must we have a second permission form for a FULL query?

Answer: No. Driver consent for full queries can only be obtained by logging onto the Clearinghouse website and requesting consent from the driver. FMCSA dictates the consent language and retains the documentation. 

Question: If one of our CTPA/Consortia is not registered in the Clearinghouse, can we still use them but report the results our self?

Answer: Yes. 

Question: When operators self-register - is this their permission to the annual partial query?

Answer:  No. Consent for a limited annual query is not available through the Clearinghouse website. This consent is granted via a traditional consent form agreed to by the carrier and the driver. Here’s a link to FMCSA sample limited consent form

Question: Do we have to run all of our current drivers through the clearing house on Jan 6th or do we have a year to do that?

Answer: Carriers have one year to begin running limited queries on drivers employed before January 6, 2020. Carriers must obtain a query on each driver at least once per year. 

Question: Is there a formula to see if we should purchase a bundle vs the one time 24000 fee? We have over 15000 drivers and expect to hire @ 1500 a year.

Answer:  The unlimited query package doesn’t result in a net savings per query until after 19,600 queries are purchased. In this scenario, your decision should be based on a number of factors including: 1) The average number of drivers you employ annually; 2) How often you will be running a limited query; and 3) When in the hiring process you expect to request a full query (on all applicants or just those you intend on hiring. 

Question: Why are MRO's not responsible for inputting positive results to the clearing house?

Answer: MRO’s are responsible for reporting all verified positive controlled substance tests and MRO confirmed refusals to test. 

Question: Do we have to run our non CDL drivers through the clearinghouse?

Answer: No. Carriers are only required to run queries on drivers holding a CDL who operate equipment for which a CDL is required.

Question: Will diluted specimens need to be reported?

Answer: The Clearinghouse rules did not change the underlying rules in Part 40 -- Procedures for Transportation Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing Programs. If the diluted specimen is positive for a controlled substance, it should be reported accordingly. 49 CFR Part 40.197 details the procedures for handling diluted specimens. 

Question: So this requirement does not include those motorists that have a Medical Certificate to drive over 10,000 lbs but do not hold a CDL

Correct. The Clearinghouse rules only apply to CDL drivers operating equipment for which a CDL is required. =

Question: Will non negative need to be reported?

Answer: Drug and/or alcohol tests deemed positive, refusals to test, and actual knowledge violations (as defined in 49 CFR 382.107) must be reported to the Clearinghouse. 

Question: For pre-employment does a full query need to be ran?

Answer: Yes, a pre-employment full query must be run before the driver is allowed to perform safety sensitive functions (i.e. driver a CMV requiring a CDL).

Question: Hello, will there be an e-book of this webinar we can refer too? or do we have to request it?

Answer: The eBook is available here

Question: I want to make sure that all of my drivers are being compliant with the Clearinghouse. Unfortunately I have been told that there is no way to know whether or not my current drivers are registered for the Clearinghouse unless a "Full Query" is ran, in which they have to give consent through the clearinghouse. Would it be better to just run "Full Queries" as opposed to a "Limited Query" on all of my current drivers so I know they are registered?

Answer: Drivers you employ prior to January 6, 2020 won't need to register for the Clearinghouse. You'll be able to run annual (limited) queries on them without them being registered. You just need to have a limited query consent form on file for each of your drivers. The only reason a driver needs to be registered is if they need to consent to a full query (which must be done in the Clearinghouse). 

Question: Any idea what FMCSA/DOT is going to do about the CDL holder being mandated or required to create an account in the clearinghouse? 

Answer: The only reason a driver needs to be registered is if they need to consent to a full query. If the driver does not consent to any query, they are not allowed to operate a CMV. 

Question: Do we connect FedEx DOT # on portal since we are a contractor for them? We don't have a dot number. 

Answer:  Drivers operating under the authority of another carrier are considered employees of that carrier for the purposes of the Clearinghouse. 

Question: What happens when you get to the FMCSA login and you cannot connect your accounts because you are having trouble logging in to FMSCA?

Answer:  If you are having trouble connecting your FMCSA portal account to your Clearinghouse account please call FMCSA Contact Center support line at 800-832-5660.

Question: So do I need to add all current working for me or just new drivers looking for work after?

Answer: All new drivers hired after Jan 6 2020 must register in order to grant consent for the pre-employment full query. Drivers you employ prior to the January 6. 2020 implementation date won't need to be registered unless they need to consent to a full query (i.e. a limited query indicates information exists on the driver, thus necessitating a full query). 

Question: If a driver is currently employed, but registers, will there be any indication or flag to their current company that shows they are registered, but have no records in the clearinghouse?

Answer: The Clearinghouse will not indicate the registration status of a driver. 

Question: What if driver does not have email, smart phone, other device?

Answer: Drivers will need an email address in order to establish a login.gov account, which is necessary to register for the Clearinghouse. 

Question: With this being a new program, do our current drivers need to register for us to run the Limited report?

Answer: No, drivers employed prior to January 6, 2020 do not need to register in order to run the limited query. You just need to have a signed limited query consent form on file. If the limited query indicates information exists on the driver, the carrier is required to request a full query and review the information. The driver must be registered to consent to a full query. 

Question: Registration is not required until on or after Jan 6th, correct?

Answer: You should register first chance you get (preferably before Jan 6). The only drivers who need to register are those you're going to be hiring after Jan 6, 2020.

Question: I questioned FMCSA on when the pre-employment full query had to be done and was told prior to any safety sensitive duties including the road test.

Answer: Correct. 

Question: how long will it take to get the results once the query has been submitted?

Answer: Limited queries will be returned immediately. The response time for full queries depends on how long it takes the driver to log-in and provide consent for the full query.

Question: For current drivers at the start of the program on 1/6, does the Motor Carrier have to do a full query first and then a limited query thereafter?

Answer: No. For drivers a carrier employers prior to January 6, 2020, full queries are not required unless the limited query indicates information exists on the driver in the Clearinghouse. 

Question: Do you have to run the annual queries for currently employees immediately in Jan, or can you wait until later in the year and run your first batch at the same time you typically run your annual MVRs?

Answer: Limited queries on drivers employed by you prior to January 6, 2020 must be obtained no later than Jan 5, 2021. An employer must query the Clearinghouse at least once per year on each CDL driver that operates equipment for which a CDL is required. 

Question: We have 150 CDL drivers, we may hire 5 next year. We do not need to register existing employees, correct? Then only query those five going forward annually?

Answer: You'll only run a pre-employment full query on CDL drivers hired after Jan 6, 2020. Those new hires will need to be registered to grant consent to run a full query. Going forward, you'll need to perform an annual query on all current drivers. 

Question: Can you order a full query for the annual instead of the limited query?

Answer:  Yes.The only challenge is that full queries require the driver to consent using the Clearinghouse website which may slow the process down. 

Question: When is the earliest need to run annual query for existing drivers?

Answer:  Limited queries on drivers employed by you prior to January 6, 2020 must be obtained no later than Jan 5, 2021. An employer must query the Clearinghouse at least once per year on each CDL driver that operates equipment for which a CDL is required. 

Question: When the Clearinghouse goes live -how far back will data be available in the system (ie when CSA went live -the system already had sufficient data in it) ? (so a driver who had a positive 5 years ago -would that be included in the system?

Answer:  The Clearinghouse is a prospective database. Only violations occurring on or after January 6, 2020 will be included.  As a result, when the Clearinghouse goes live on Jan. 6, 2020, it will be empty.

Question: When a drug violation recommendation have been met will there be a notice in a limited query requiring a carrier to pull a full query which then will indicate all recommendations have been met.

Answer:  If violation information exists in the Clearinghouse on a driver, a limited query will indicate that the employer must request a full query to review the information. 

Question: How we gonna get response to limited query if the driver is not registered? Is it still gonna be information on the driver, if any violation to appear?

Answer:  Drivers won't need to be registered for a limited query. FMCSA catalogs driver violations based on the drivers name, date of birth, and CDL information, not Clearinghouse registration status. 

Question: It would not give me the option to select user role on the portal . I emailed clearinghouse@dot.gov no response... Who can you call ?

Answer: FMCSA Contact Center support line at 800-832-5660.

Question: How often can you buy query plans?

Answer:  As often as you'd like. Queries purchased as part of a query bundle do not expire. The unlimited query plan needs to be renewed every year. 

Question: If you have an administrator set up, can you change to a different person in the company?

Answer: The new Employer Admin will create their Portal account with the DACH Motor Carrier Admin role. Once it is approved, the new Employer Admin will create their own Clearinghouse account, select Employer as their role, link to their Portal account. The Company will need to request the previous Employer Admin’s Portal account is cancelled/deactivated. They can reach out to Portal Technical Support at 800-832-5660.

Question: If prescription drugs show up on a panel, does that need to be reported?

Answer: All MRO verified positive DOT regulated drug test results must be reported by the MRO. 

Question: Do you have to add violations prior to Jan 6, 2020? We would be reporting on manual VOE still?

Answer:  Only violations that occur after January 6, 2020 must be reported. 

Question: current drivers with no previous D & A violations do not need to register, but they need to have a limited query consent release to be kept on file. If a current company drivers registers with the clearinghouse, do we still need the release?

Answer:  Yes. Limited query consent forms must be maintained by the carrier. Full query consents are retained by FMCSA in the Clearinghouse. 

Question: If you have a zero tolerance policy, is it ok to terminate if a violation is found for something the driver did with another employer while not at work?

Answer:  The drug and alcohol testing regulations are silent on carrier hiring and firing decisions. Please consult your attorney regarding these questions. 

Question: Are drivers with other kind of CDL for example Canada or Mexico permit required to be registered?

Answer:  All FMCSA-regulated CDL (or equivalent) drivers who operating equipment for which a CDL is required are included in the Clearinghouse. Drivers are only required to register if they need to consent to a full query. 

Question: I am interviewing drivers now and we may not have them start until after January 6th. Should I ask them now if they are registered with the clearinghouse?

Answer: It’s not a bad idea. If the driver is hired prior to January 6, 2020 you are not required to query to Clearinghouse on them until it is time to request the annual query.

Question: Will TPAs be able to see the MC query account balance (to be able to prompt MC to purchase additional bundle if required, etc.)?

Answer: The TPA will be notified if the carrier’s account does not have enough queries to fulfil the request. 

Question: So my 3rd party will send results of pre-employment drug tests and quarterly random results to the clearinghouse?

Answer: MRO’s are required to report all verified positive drug test results. Motor carriers, or their service agents, are required to report positive alcohol test results, refusals to test not requiring an MRO determination and actual knowledge violations. Here is a link to a helpful “How will I used the Clearinghouse?” document on FMCSA’s website.

Question: We are a truck driving school. We don't have a DOT#. We are still required to pull a query for each student acquiring a CDL or CLP, correct?

Answer:  You are required to conduct a full query after the driver has obtained a CLP or CDL but before they can operate a CMV requiring a CDL. 

Question: Is there a cost difference between a full query and a limited query?

Answer: No, both queries cost $1.25. 

Question: What are the responsibilities for CDL training providers?

Answer: You are required to conduct a full query after the driver has obtained a CLP or CDL but before they can operate a CMV requiring a CDL. 

Question: What are the penalties for a fleet that fails to meet the requirements of the rule?

Answer: Employers who do not comply with the requirements of the rule are subject to civil and/or criminal penalties set forth in 49. USC 521(b)(2)(c)

Question: If a new driver is registered with the clearing house and then hired. What is the time frame after hired does a carrier have to run a full query?

Answer: For drivers hired on or after January 6, 2020, A full query must be conducted before the driver is allowed to perform a safety sensitive function (i.e. operate a CMV requiring a CDL). 

Question: As a school, after a student gets a CLP, can we run the limited or are we required to run a full as students are technically "employees?"

Answer: 49 CFR Part 382.701(a)(1) states, in part, that “employers must not employ a driver subject to controlled substance and alcohol testing under this part to perform a safety-sensitive function without first conducting a pre-employment query of the Clearinghouse. . .” A full query is required. 

Question: If the driver is already employed with a company and under FMCSA D&A then what is the point of the annual limited query? If the driver has tested positive with a random, then wouldn't the company already know this from the MRO?

Answer: The annual query requirement is designed to help inform carriers if one of their drivers failed a test for another motor carrier and is therefore disqualified from operating a CMV until the return-to-duty process is complete. The most likely scenarios under which this may occur is if the driver is also working for another motor carrier or fails a pre-employment drug test during the application process for another motor carrier. 

Question: If the student obtains their CDL permit after one week of class, will the school be required to query the driver/student once the CLP has been obtained ?

Answer: 49 CFR Part 382.701(a)(1) states, in part, that “employers must not employ a driver subject to controlled substance and alcohol testing under this part to perform a safety-sensitive function without first conducting a pre-employment query of the Clearinghouse. . .” A full query is required. 

Question: Do TPAs release forms that cover DOT Drug & Alcohol information to be released, do the TPA release forms need to be updated and to reflect what?

Answer: Here is a link to the FMCSA’s sample  limited query consent form. 

Question: If the Pre-Employment DOT Drug Screen is completed by a Student Driver before they obtain a CLP, will this DOT screen need to be reported by the MRO to the Clearinghouse?

Answer: No. The Clearinghouse will only contain violation data on drivers who had a CLP or CDL at the time of testing. =

Question: I'm struggling to find the instruction to add Hireright as my C/TPA. Do I have to purchase a query plan first in order to add them?

Answer: No. Please review the employer registration instructions available here for information on adding a C/TPA. The C/TPA must be registered with the Clearinghouse before they can be added to a carrier’s Clearinghouse account. 

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