In January 2020, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA’s) Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse will go into effect. The rule will mandate that employers begin checking the clearinghouse database for drug and alcohol violations and that certain violations be uploaded into the clearinghouse by the employer. Tony Cardamone, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Concorde, Inc., talks about its implications, how it will affect the industry and how to prepare for the implementation.

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One of the brochures available from DOT.
Image courtesy of Concorde, Inc.

What is the Commercial Driver’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse? The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA’s) Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse is a secure online database that will give employers, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), State Driver Licensing Agencies (SDLAs), and State law enforcement personnel real-time information about commercial driver’s license (CDL) and commercial learner’s permit (CLP) holders’ drug and alcohol program violations. The Clearinghouse will contain records of violations of drug and alcohol prohibitions in 49 CFR Part 382, Subpart B, including positive drug or alcohol test results and test refusals. When a driver completes the return-to-duty (RTD) process and follow-up testing plan, this information will also be recorded in the Clearinghouse.

How does it affect waste and recycling industry, specifically haulers? Why is it an important ruling to be aware of? The rule affects anyone covered by the DOT FMCSA. Specifically, any DOT regulated employer and driver. The rule is important to be aware of because it will mandate that employers begin checking the clearinghouse for drug and alcohol violations and that certain violations be uploaded
into the clearinghouse by the employer. Currently, DOT employers inthe Waste and Recycling industry already have a mandate to ask the previous employer about drug and alcohol violations. Now, the new rule will mandate employers use the centralized Clearinghouse. So, for the next three years, employers will have to do both—check with previous employers and query the Clearinghouse. Then, in 2023, DOT employers will no longer have to ask previous employers about previous Drug and alcohol violation. The idea is that after three years, the clearinghouse will have three years of data, which is how long back the drug and alcohol questions must go.

Registration began in October 2019. How long do drivers or companies with drivers have to register with the database once the ruling goes into effect? Will access be available to both individual drivers and employers? The rules goes into effect January 6th, 2020. Employers must register by then. Registration is open for both employers and drivers right now. Although drivers can request to see all information from their file, only registered employers will have the ability to query and upload to the Clearinghouse. Single owner/operators must sign on with a TPA (Third Party administrators). Also, if employers want the option of using a TPA, such as Concorde, they must declare so during registration. Keep in mind that the Clearinghouse registration will import DOT numbers from the employers FMCSA Portal (separate program and website). It is imperative that Employers’ FMCSA Portal have up to date information and up-to-date DOT numbers in their FMCSA Portal or else the Clearinghouse will not be able to associate a DOT number to that employer.

What will the FMCSA’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse provide to haulers in order to check on drivers that may have a history of drug/alcohol violations on the job? Employers are required to perform two types of queries (searches) in the clearinghouse. The first is a pre-hire query. This must be done as a “Full Query”. This type of query requires a driver to register in order for the driver to receive an e-mail to consent to the query. A full query must return completed before the driver is allowed to driver (“perform safety sensitive” work). The second type of query is a “Limited Query”, which will fulfill the annual query requirement that must be performed on all current DOT regulated drivers every year. The limited query will require a specific type of consent to be processed and held by the employer. The limited query will only return data that states the driver is clear or has information. If the return states that the driver has information in the clearinghouse, then a Full query is required immediately, and the driver must be stopped from driving.

In what ways will it affect the hiring/screening process? The Clearinghouse is meant to close the gap from the current drug and alcohol questions that are to be posed to previous employers that go unanswered or miscommunicated. The idea is to have a centralized bank of drug and alcohol violations, so a driver does not skip from company to company after having drug and alcohol issues. Unfortunately, it will not close the gap completely. As we all know, drug and alcohol testing is a human driven process (driver pun unintended). The process involves many data points to get a drug screen completed. The process will capture many more, but the new requirement to use CDL numbers on drug and alcohol chain of custody will most likely not become a reality on the ground fast enough. All said, it is a step in the right direction.

The hiring process will have another hiccup to process as well as the safety departments because the new rule adds additional processes and will take time. HR departments are already squeezed for recruits and this new rule adds time to the task of turning a recruit/applicant into a hire. Remember, under the old rule you could start a driver driving before the drug and alcohol questions were responded to. Now, employers will be forced to wait for the drivers to consent online before they are allowed to begin driving. Plus, it adds a cost to doing business by adding significant administration time and a cost of $1.25 per query.
Does this also apply to and/or include part-time or contract drivers? If the contracted driver is through an agency required to uphold his DOT compliance, then no, but if the employer is responsible for DOT compliance, then yes. Part-time drivers are included as long as it is a DOT covered employee.

If drivers have to be drug and alcohol tested on a regular basis, do results need to be updated in the Clearinghouse database? Yes. Certain violations, like positive, adulterated or substituted drug screens will be uploaded by the MRO (Medical Review Officer). However, many types of violations must be reported into the clearinghouse. Employers must be very mindful of what is uploaded. There are fines for uploading inaccurate or incomplete information just as there are fines for not uploading certain required information.

How will this improve some of the existing safety issues? This is a step in the right direction of catching individuals that have a history of drug and alcohol violations and have not gone through the DOT SAP (Substance Abuse Professional) programs. Especially in the waste industry there is just too much going on to have someone under the influence of drugs and or alcohol on the job.

How should companies in the waste/recycling industry prepare for this implementation? Begin by having internal conversations with HR, Safety, Unions, Drivers. Then, call your TPA (like Concorde) who will have services to save you on the administration costs. Sort out your FMCSA Portal Accounts and make sure all your DOT numbers are registered correctly. Register at https://clearinghouse.fmcsa.dot.gov/. Keep in mind, that the clearinghouse affects pre-hire and current employees.

Also begin pushing drivers to use CDL numbers as their “Donor IDs” on their drug and alcohol chain of custody forms (CCFs) when they go for drug or alcohol screens. Decide how many queries you want to buy for each DOT number. Remember, Queries have to be purchased ahead of time with a company credit card. Each query bank can only be associated with a single DOT number. So, if you have multiple DOT numbers you need to purchase multiple bundles of Queries. Make sure to have consent paperwork in order to run limited queries for annual query requirement.

The new rule requires additional information in your policies. Make sure to have your mandatory drug and alcohol procedures vetted and add the required language. Finally, be sure to seek guidance from your TPA. They can help you through any part of the process. | WA

For more information, contact Tony Cardamone at (215) 523-8898 or e-mail tony@concorde2000.com.

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