The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Clearinghouse will become operational on January 6, 2020, and FMCSA-regulated employers (Most Drivers with a CDL are covered) must be ready to comply with the Clearinghouse requirements on that date.

The FMCSA Clearinghouse is an electronic database that will contain information about commercial motor vehicle drivers’ drug and alcohol program violations.

The clearinghouse rule requires FMCSA-regulated employers, medical review officers, substance abuse professionals, consortia/third-party administrators and other service agents to report to the clearinghouse information related to violations of FMCSA’s drug and alcohol testing regulations by current and prospective employees.

In addition:

> Employers must query the clearinghouse for current and prospective employees’ drug and alcohol program violations before permitting those employees to operate a commercial motor vehicle on public roads.

> Employers are required to query the clearinghouse annually for each driver they currently employ.

> State driver licensing agencies will be required to query the clearinghouse whenever a CDL (commercial driver’s license) is issued, renewed, transferred or upgraded.

> Employers must report drivers’ drug and alcohol program violations to the clearinghouse within three business days after the employer learns of the information.

Here are the important dates that FMCSA-regulated employers must be aware of, and steps to take to prepare for compliance:

Fall 2019:

Register with the clearinghouse. Employers (and their service agents) should log on to the FMCSA Clearinghouse to register with the clearinghouse and become familiar with the site, clearinghouse.fmcsa.dot.gov/. Clearinghouse registration is valid for five years, unless cancelled or revoked.

Revise drug and alcohol testing policy. In addition, FMCSA regulations require employers to add new language to their FMCSA drug and alcohol testing policies. A complete policy revision with new compliance forms is advised.

Jan. 6, 2020:

Queries of new hires/transfers: Employers must query the clearinghouse before allowing a newly-hired commercial motor vehicle driver (or current employee who transfers into such a position) to begin operating a commercial motor vehicle. Drivers must sign a consent form allowing the employer to do so.

Non-compliance penalties: Employers who do not comply with the FMCSA Clearinghouse requirements after Jan. 6 are subject to the civil and/or criminal penalties and civil penalties not to exceed $2,500 for each offense.

Common Sense Counsel: FMCSA-regulated employers should review and revise their drug and alcohol testing policies now and become familiar with the clearinghouse requirements before the October signup date. The penalties, and learning curves, are just too steep to delay.

Tommy Eden is a partner working out of the Constangy, Brooks, Smith and Prophete, LLP offices in Opelika and drafts DOT and State Specific Drug Free Workplace Polices for Constangy clients. He can be contacted at teden@constangy.com or 334-246-2901.


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