What Does the DOT Clearinghouse Mean for My Business?

The DOT Clearinghouse is the new, secure, online database used by the Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. It is intended to eventually replace the ad-hoc and manual procedures that FMCSA-regulated employers currently follow when confirming that their drivers are free of any past drug or alcohol program violations.
Jared Rosenthal
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You may be wondering, “Is the DOT Clearinghouse mandatory?” In a word, yes. All FMCSA-regulated employers must follow the DOT Clearinghouse rules in the United States. In particular, the FMCSA Clearinghouse final rule requires that all FMCSA-regulated employers run a Clearinghouse query before allowing an employee to operate a commercial vehicle on public roadways.

Continue reading below to learn the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about the DOT Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse and to stay abreast of your new responsibilities as an employer.

DOT Clearinghouse Queries

As an FMCSA-regulated employer, you will need to query the DOT Clearinghouse in two different situations:

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You have hired, or intend to hire, a new employee.
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Before you can let your new driver operate a commercial vehicle on a public highway, you must query the Clearinghouse to ensure they have not failed to report to you any drug or alcohol program violations. Note that, for now, the DOT Clearinghouse does not absolve you of the responsibility to contact previous employers. Until the Clearinghouse contains three years of consecutive reporting data, you must still manually contact prior employers to obtain this information.
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An annual check for each existing employee.
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For every driver, an FMCSA-regulated employer employs, the employer must query the DOT Clearinghouse database once per calendar year to ensure their record remains clear of any unreported drug or alcohol program violations.

DOT Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse FAQ

Continue reading below for some of the most frequently asked questions about the new DOT Clearinghouse.

What is the DOT Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse?

The Clearinghouse is a secure database, accessible online, that contains information about drug and alcohol program violations by commercial driver’s license and commercial learner’s permit holders. It is operated by the Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

Is the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse mandatory?

Yes, the use of the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse is mandatory. This means that FMCSA-regulated employers must promptly report any drug or alcohol program violations to the Clearinghouse. It also means that employers must run a check on prospective employees before those employees operate a commercial vehicle on public roadways.

Who has to sign up for the FMCSA Clearinghouse?

The following groups of people must sign up for the FMCSA Clearinghouse:

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FMCSA-regulated employers
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Holders of commercial driver’s licenses
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Medical review officers
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Substance abuse professionals
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State driver’s licensing agencies
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Third-party administrators

The responsibilities of each of these groups will differ depending on their function. For example, FMCSA-regulated employers of drivers will need to submit queries of their employees to ensure the safety of the public. Substance abuse professionals, on the other hand, will be required to report any failed drug or alcohol program violations to the Clearinghouse to ensure the database remains comprehensive and current.

If my driver fails a DOT drug test, do I have to report it?

Yes, you must promptly report a failed DOT drug test by one of your drivers to the Clearinghouse. Failure to report a drug or alcohol violation is itself a violation of regulations found in Parts 40 and 382 of Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations.

Do I still have to call prior employers or can I just check the Clearinghouse?

For the time being, you must still call prior employers in addition to checking the Clearinghouse. However, once the Clearinghouse contains three consecutive years of data (which will occur in 2023), manual previous employer checks will no longer be required.

Final Thoughts

The FMCSA Clearinghouse is an attempt to harmonize the rules around drug and alcohol safety in the transportation industry and to simplify the ability of employers to meet their obligations in this area.

At first, the new rules, especially the FMCSA Clearinghouse final rule, simply seem to add another layer of obligations on top of employers’ already existing responsibilities. After all, as an employer, you will now be required to run a Clearinghouse query in addition to running manual checks of previous employers.

However, once the Clearinghouse contains three consecutive years of data (which will occur in January of 2023), employers will no longer be required to run manual checks, and the process will be significantly simplified.

For more information about DOT Clearinghouse rules and your responsibilities as an employer, see our DOT Drug Testing Requirements.

Citations

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Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), https://clearinghouse.fmcsa.dot.gov/
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“What is the FMCSA Commercial Driver’s License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse?” Factsheet. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), https://clearinghouse.fmcsa.dot.gov/Resource/Index/Factsheet
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Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse FAQs, https://clearinghouse.fmcsa.dot.gov/FAQ
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“Procedures for Transportation Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing Programs.” Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). Title 49, Part 40, Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy & Compliance (ODAPC), U.S. Department of Transportation, https://www.transportation.gov/odapc/part40
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Controlled Substances and Alcohol Use and Testing. Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). Title 49, Part 382, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/title49/part/382
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“Commercial Driver’s License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse.” Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/commercial-drivers-license-drug-and-alcohol-clearinghouse
WRITTEN BY

Jared is the Founder of Health Street, the creator of the Who's Your Daddy DNA truck, and the host of VH1's Swab Stories.

WRITTEN BY

Jared is the Founder of Health Street, the creator of the Who's Your Daddy DNA truck, and the host of VH1's Swab Stories.

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