Safe trucking depends on sober drivers, which is why the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) created a centralized, easy-to-access Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse to serve as a single source of record for driver incidents and violations. While this online database makes it easier for carriers to verify applicants and upload random check and incident information, there is confusion about how, when, and where to use the Clearinghouse. Here are some tips for drivers and carriers so you can navigate the Clearinghouse rules and stay in the clear with government regulations.
All Drivers Should Register with the Clearinghouse
While registration with the FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse isn’t required for drivers, registration allows any carriers you drive for to run required pre-employment and annual queries. In some cases, carriers may require driver registration to be considered for employment.
After you have registered with the Clearinghouse, you’ll be able to access your records at any time online. If you’ve had any violations reported to the Clearinghouse, you’ll be able to use the system to see the ongoing status of your return-to-work process and identify any substance abuse professionals helping you in that process. You can also provide electronic consent to release detailed drug and alcohol information to your current employer.
Clearinghouse Registration is Required for Employers
If you hire commercial drivers, you must register your business as an employer with the Clearinghouse. This goes for self-employed drivers operating on their own, as well. Per the FMCSA regulations, independent owner-operators must register as employers of themselves unless they are hired and contracted by a company handling that registration process for them. If you’re an owner-operator, but you are leasing your equipment to another carrier, Clearinghouse employer registrations may be handled for you, but you’ll need to make sure.
Once you’re signed up and ready to use the Clearinghouse, you’ll need to designate a “Clearinghouse administrator” for your company. This person is the main point of contact who makes queries and receives results. For independent drivers, you can appoint a spouse or relative as your Clearinghouse administrator, but it should be someone who is involved in your independent business. If you are the only point of contact for your business, you should hire a third-party administrator so that you can ensure compliance.
Consortium Services Can Help Keep You Compliant–But Beware
After obtaining your unique login to the Clearinghouse, you can hire a consortium or third-party service (C/TPA) to help you maintain compliance with the FMCSA regulations. Your C/TPA, once identified as acting on your behalf in the Clearinghouse, can report violations and/or conduct queries for you.
Be aware that some carriers have failed audits because they assumed the scope of a C/TPA was larger than was being executed. Make sure you understand where your responsibilities end, and the C/TPA begins, so that you’re not creating any compliance gaps in your hiring and driver recertification processes.
Know Which Reports You Need to Run
When you run a query, you’ll be asked whether you want a “limited” or “full” report. Both reports cost the same–$1.25–however, the limited report only tells you whether or not there is information about the queried driver in the database. It doesn’t contain violation details or return-to-work status. If a violation exists in a limited report, you’ll need to gain driver consent to access their full report. You won’t be charged extra for the full report, as long as the limited report indicates that there is violation information that needs to be investigated.
It’s recommended that, when going through a new hire process, you start with a full report. The cost is the same, and it streamlines the hiring process. For annual reports and driver recertification, limited reports can help you expedite the process by giving you faster results and less data to sift through.
Violation Reporting is Compulsory
If a driver receives a drug or alcohol violation or tests positive during routine testing, their registered employer must report the violation through the Clearinghouse. If you are an independent driver and test positive or receive a violation, your Clearinghouse administrator must report the violation. The driver must then complete a return-to-work process that will be outlined through the Clearinghouse.
Reporting is critically important to your business. Not only is it the law, but reporting violations reduces liability for your company. If a driver fails a random screening, and you issue a warning instead of reporting, and that driver went on to become involved in a DUI, your company could be held responsible for putting them behind the wheel. The ramifications could be long-lasting and far-reaching, including steep fines, loss of business licenses, and even the closure of your company.
F|Staff Takes Care of the Clearinghouse For You
When you hire a driver through the F|Staff app, you know you’re getting someone who is already DOT verified, drug and alcohol tested, and compliant through the Clearinghouse process. And you’ll save the time and costs associated with all other aspects of hiring as well. When you have a truck to move, F|Staff has pre-screened drivers ready. Hire same-day or in advance for single jobs, contracts, contract-to-hire, or full time. You’ll have granular control over your driver requirements, including experience levels, safety records, specialty endorsements, proximity to your location, availability, and more. There are no contracts or obligations. You can use F|Staff as little or as often as you need. We handle payroll, taxes, and driver benefits for contracted drivers, and you only ever pay for the drivers’ time you use.
Ready to get started with F|Staff? Register online, and we’ll give you a call to walk you through the onboarding process. We’ll even help you set up your first few jobs.