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FMCSA extending drug clearinghouse deadline for state agencies

State driver licensing agencies (SDLAs) will have three additional years to comply with federal drug and alcohol clearinghouse requirements if a proposed rule is approved.

In a proposed rulemaking to be published by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) on September 6, the agency is delaying compliance for how state agencies query the Commercial Driver’s License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse database from January 6, 2020, to January 6, 2023, based on concerns raised two years ago by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA), a trade association representing state driver licensing authorities.

“In the Agency’s judgment, it would be premature to implement the States’ query requirement before addressing the questions and concerns raised by AAMVA in its 2017 petition for reconsideration,” FMCSA stated in its proposal.

FMCSA emphasized that all other provision of the clearinghouse final rule will go into effect on January 6, 2020, including the reporting into the system of drug and alcohol testing program violations by holders of commercial drivers’ licenses (CDLs), as well as required queries into the system by trucking companies for current and prospective drivers. The agency recently set query pricing options for companies and owner-operators.

The clearinghouse final rule requires that employers conduct queries as part of any pre-employment driver investigation. It must be done at least annually for every driver holding a CDL who is currently employed. All queries require driver consent.

FMCSA said the AAMVA raised several concerns, such as wanting to know what FMCSA intends that states do with the information they receive from the clearinghouse, and what specific information would states receive in response to a request for information about a CDL holder or applicant. The association also wanted more information on the privacy controls that would be used in transmitting data to SDLAs, and how errors in clearinghouse records would be corrected and at what cost.

To address those concerns, FMCSA said it plans to publish a separate proposed rule specifically to address AAMVA’s concerns. “Delaying the implementation of the query requirement [for SDLAs] would provide FMCSA additional time to resolve AAMVA’s concerns and ensure a seamless implementation of the states’ Clearinghouse-related requirements.” The separate proposed rule, “Clearinghouse II,” will be published no later than March 1, 2020.

The current proposal notes that SDLAs that want to access a CDL applicant’s drug or alcohol violation information will be able to register in the clearinghouse as an authorized user to view the person’s record. “This optional access to the Clearinghouse would be exercised solely at the states’ discretion,” FMCSA stated, adding it will be providing registration guidance for all authorized users in the coming weeks.

The agency is setting a 30-day comment period after the rulemaking is published in the Federal Register and may change the proposal based on the comments received.

John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.