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What drivers and fleets need to know about the drug and alcohol clearinghouse

Truck drivers looking for a job will soon have to register with a new drug and alcohol clearinghouse. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Many trucking companies refuse to hire a truck driver with a positive drug or alcohol test in their past, while others may allow a positive test if it is far enough removed from current service. Drug and alcohol testing is such a red herring for fleets and their insurers, though, that drivers will do anything they can to get around the testing and avoid any hint of past use.

That is why the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has taken steps to eliminate the most common trick employed by drivers to get a job – fail a pre-employment screening test at one fleet and quickly go to another fleet for a job before that failed test shows up on their record, a process that can currently take weeks or even months.

Starting in January 2020, that will ostensibly end when the official Commercial Driver’s License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse goes live. Mandated by Congress, the site is a federal database that will house all positive drug and alcohol tests. Carriers will be required to query the site before hiring a driver and state licensing agencies must query the site before issuing a commercial driver’s license (CDL).

Inclusion in the clearinghouse isn’t a death sentence for a driver’s career, but it might put a stop to it for a while until the driver can reclaim good standing. It also doesn’t preclude a carrier from hiring a driver with a past positive test result. In fact, the addition of the clearinghouse does not change U.S. Department of Transportation procedures for transportation workplace drug and alcohol testing in any way, FMCSA said.

Building a central database

The clearinghouse is simply a central location for compiling results which should streamline the process for carriers to ensure compliance with regulations. It will include positive drug and alcohol test results and test refusals, which are considered a violation under current regulations. For those drivers that test positive, there is a “return-to-duty” (RTD) process they can follow. This is also included in the clearinghouse and when completed, the clearinghouse will reflect that accomplishment and fleets will know that the driver has taken the steps necessary to return to good standing.

Joe DeLorenzo, director of the Office of Enforcement and Compliance at FMCSA, explained the clearinghouse during a session at this year’s Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Kentucky, in March. Still set to go live on January 6, 2020, he explained that drivers who fail drug or alcohol tests will have those results submitted by the fleet or medical examiner to the clearinghouse and all fleets, when hiring a driver, must check the clearinghouse to see if the driver has previously failed a test. All results will remain in the clearinghouse for three years.

All drivers looking for a job will need to register, but only failed tests or refusals will be entered into the database. Driver registration will begin in October 2019, he said.

In a frequently asked questions section on the website, FMCSA noted that any testing conducted by employers outside the scope of DOT testing requirements will not be entered into the clearinghouse, nor will any candidate’s drug testing history with another modal administration.

DeLorenzo emphasized that drivers need not create an account if they are not looking to switch jobs, but if they are, they must be in the clearinghouse.

Drivers must give consent

“A driver will need to be registered to provide consent in the clearinghouse for a prospective or current employer to conduct a full query of his or her driver record. A full query ensures that the driver is not prohibited from operating a CMV due to a drug or alcohol violation. Beginning January 6, 2020, a full query will be a required step during any pre-employment screening for a CDL driver required to perform safety-sensitive functions,” the clearinghouse website states.

Drivers will be able to:

  • log into the clearinghouse to electronically consent to requests from prospective and current employers needing to access full details about any drug and alcohol program violations in a driver’s history, as part of employment-related background checks.
  • log in at any time to view their individual driver record.
  • engage a Substance Abuse Professional (SAP), a driver must identify the SAP in the Clearinghouse to initiate the RTD process.

Owner-operators are not exempt from this process. According to FMCSA, an “employer who employs himself/herself as a driver is subject to the requirements pertaining to employers as well as those pertaining to drivers. Under the clearinghouse final rule, an employer who employs himself/herself as a driver must designate a consortium/third-party administrator (C/TPA) to comply with the employer’s clearinghouse reporting requirements related to his or her own alcohol and controlled substance use.”

When signing up for the clearinghouse, a driver will choose a notification method – by mail or email – and any time information on the driver within the clearinghouse is added, revised or removed, the driver will be notified.


  1. GirlWBigThoughts

    The only way to keep anyone impaired off the road is to test every time they get behind the wheel. Pre-employment and random testing is not going to fix your problem you speak of here. It may slow it down but the problem will always be people will always use, or drink regardless of the legal issues. It just depends on the person when they will do it.

    Someone using on their days off and getting tested that next work week will come up positive. They will not be impaired and do their job just fine. Testing should be more along the lines of is this person alert, are they paying attention, are they making proper decisions, do they look or seem to be impaired?

    Do they smell of alcohol? Blood shot eyes, sleepy, unsure, slurring words, or anything along these lines? Maybe employers should be a little more involved in the employees job. Like calling for an update, open trust policy. “If you get fucked up, stop, call, and rest”!

    I could go on and on here. Human error causes so many accidents and deaths, unimpaired or impaired.

    1. Joel Howard

      Your so right , but before the current regulations were in place in 1988 , the problem was way out of control . Today the job security and great pay for drivers, their families, and safety in general , combined with our drug testing programs has made our roads 3 times as safe as the past . Actually saved many lives . No , it’s not perfect , and our biggest problem is that regular drivers are not tested at all . Which puts DOT drivers at risk everyday . If we can help you or any carrier , please give us a call . We have the best Drug Testing program in the country . Over 20 years experience . 888.371.4615

  2. Bob

    Drug testing is an invasion of ones privacy. Drug testing should only be aloud if an employee was involved in an accident or caused that accident.
    I love how the USA no longer adheres to innocent until to proven guilty. You are now guilty until you prove your innocence.

    1. Bridget

      When someone performs a safety sensitive function that can put the general public or themselves at risk and is getting paid to do so, said individual is consenting to the requirements of the governing body, in this case , the FMCSA and DOT.

      Let me share a story on why drug and alcohol screening and this public cleaning is so important. There was a truck driver who that had a rollover accident. The driver was intoxicated at the time of the rollover. In this instance no one was hurt, but the officer writing the report did not put the individuals license number in the system properly, so the violation did not show up on the driver’s record. 6 months later, this same individual drove his truck impaired, and got in an accident in which he killed a young woman and injured her passenger.

      Failing to drug test truck drivers keeps impaired drivers on the road without consequence until something happens. Drivers make the decision to become professional drivers and it is their duty, as well as the duty of the company they work for, to keep the general public safe. When you get your CDL, you consent to give up said “privacy” to do the job. If you don’t want to be subjected to drug testing, then stick to a job where people’s lives aren’t at risk every day.

      1. Joel Howard

        Exactly , sad , could have saved a life . We are here to help with implementing drug testing regulations . Call me at14798717504

    2. Joel Howard

      If we wait til and accident occurs , then it’s too late Bob , as someone could have died or been seriously injured for life . The drug testing regulations has saved thousands of lives over 25 years . Our highways are 5 times safer because of drug and alcohol testing . I hope you never have any situations occur in your life or are effected This Huge problem . If people want to do drugs and alcohol , then don’t drive a 26,000 pound truck or anything and endanger the lives of the innocent .

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Brian Straight

Brian Straight leads FreightWaves' Modern Shipper brand as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler. You can reach him at [email protected]