The CDL Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse goes into effect on January 6th, 2020. Once live, all employers, owner-operators, drivers, and other authorized users must use the Clearinghouse for all driver drug and alcohol screenings and reporting.

CDL Clearinghouse Basics

The CDL Clearinghouse is a centralized, online, national database mandated by Congress. It is considered the “Final Rule” on commercial driver drug and alcohol program violations. The system serves to enhance safety by simplifying searches and making it harder to conceal violations.

Once it goes into effect, all employers of CDL drivers must use the Clearinghouse to:

  • Request electronic consent from drivers.
  • Conduct pre-employment driver screenings.
  • Conduct limited queries at least annually for every driver they employ.
  • Report ALL drug and alcohol program violations per DOT Rule 49 CFR Part 40.
  • Record negative return-to-duty (RTD) test results and the date of the successful completion of a driver’s follow-up testing plan.

The Clearinghouse official website has lots of information, including FAQs, guidelines, and the full-text Final Rule legal document. In fact, there’s so much information that it can be a bit overwhelming. Here are answers to some of the most common employer questions to help you prepare before the system goes live.

Top 5 Employer Questions — Answered

1. Is my business affected by the CDL Clearinghouse?

If you’re in the overland commercial vehicle industry in the United States, the CDL Clearinghouse applies to you. All CDL drivers who operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) on public roads, their employers, and service agents are subject to the Final Rule of the Clearinghouse, including:

  • Interstate and intrastate motor carriers, including passenger carriers
  • School bus drivers
  • Construction equipment operators
  • Limousine drivers
  • Municipal vehicle drivers (e.g., waste management vehicles)
  • Federal and other organizations that employ drivers subject to FMCSA drug and alcohol testing regulations (e.g., Department of Defense, municipalities, school districts)

2. When do I need to register my company for the CDL Clearinghouse?

You should register your companies with the Clearinghouse before it goes into effect on January 6th. The earlier you register, the better. Failure to register early could leave you with a lot of potential catch-up work at the beginning of the new year, so set some time aside in the next couple weeks to set up your company’s account and profile.

After creating your account, you can:

  • Verify your company’s information in the FMCSA system.
  • Designate consortia and third-party administrators (TPAs) who can conduct Clearinghouse searches on your behalf.
  • Invite assistants who are internal to your company.
  • Select and purchase a query plan.

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3. How is driver information in the CDL Clearinghouse protected?

The Clearinghouse is a secure database containing personally identifying information, therefore the information is protected under the federal Privacy Act. You must secure written authorization before conducting driver searches. Fortunately, the Clearinghouse makes it easy for you. By obtaining a driver’s electronic consent through the Clearinghouse, you assure that your company is compliant with the Privacy Act and the CDL Clearinghouse terms of service.

Note that you do not have to obtain driver permission to report drug and alcohol program violations.  TPAs, medical records officers, and other authorized agencies can also release test results directly to your company without driver authorization, provided that they also file reports of known violations with the Clearinghouse.

4. How much does it cost to search the CDL Clearinghouse, and what information do I get when I search?

Price plans vary based on your desired search volume and can be purchased through If you perform driver pre-qualification or periodic screenings through a TPA, you do not need to purchase a separate plan unless you intend to conduct additional searches in-house.

Your plan comes with both limited and full queries. A limited query shows whether there are active drug and alcohol program violations on the driver’s record. If a limited query returns a positive result, it is your responsibility to conduct a full query within 24 hours. You’ll need driver consent for both types of queries. And remember: consent for a limited query is valid for multiple years, consent for a full query is only valid for one year.

Employers, third-party administrators, and other authorized must add all known violations to the CDL Clearinghouse going forward and can do so without a fee.

5. Which violations are included in the CDL Clearinghouse and how are they removed?

The CDL Clearinghouse only contains violations that occur after January 6th, 2020. Existing violations will not be backfilled into the database.

As an authorized user of the CDL Clearinghouse, you must report:

  • All alcohol test results with a concentration of .04 or higher
  • Refusals to take an alcohol or drug test

Once you are aware of a violation, you have three days to file a report. You must also record negative return-to-duty (RTD) results and the date of successful completion of a driver’s follow-up testing plan.

The Clearinghouse removes violation reports from queries once a driver obtains a successful RTD result and negative follow-up test per DOT regulations. If a driver fails to complete an RTD plan, standing violations remain active for five years.

Avoid hiring delays and added costs with F|Staff

The Clearinghouse is a positive step forward on the path to safer national roadways, but it does come at a cost. F|Staff can help you alleviate the time and budget required for keeping your staff DOT verified and drug/alcohol screened. Through the F|Staff app, you can move more trucks with immediate access to pre-screened, qualified drivers who are ready to work on a moment’s notice. With F|Staff, you can fill vacancies due to illness or driver absence, contract for longer-term workers, or convert your pre-validated drivers to FTE positions.

Contact F|Staff to see how easy it is to get rolling with the app and let us handle the Clearinghouse verifications for you.

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