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.