- Photo: U.S. DOT

Photo: U.S. DOT

The commercial driver’s license (CDL) Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse relies on accurate and timely submissions to provide a driver’s complete drug and alcohol testing history.

The Clearinghouse lists violations occurring under Part 382 occurring since January 6, 2020, along with milestones in the evaluation, treatment, and follow-up program. Medical review officers (MROs), substance abuse professionals, and motor carriers provide the data necessary to populate the Clearinghouse.

Since violations are often few and far between, motor carriers may not fully understand their reporting responsibilities. 

MROs: Not Privy to all Violations

MROs report positive, adulterated, and substituted drug test results to the Clearinghouse. Also, MROs report shy bladder incidents without a medical explanation. 

But, MROs do not know other types of testing violations, including failed alcohol tests, individual refusals to test scenarios, and a motor carrier’s actual knowledge. As a result, the obligation to report these violations to the Clearinghouse falls on the motor carrier. It must submit these events by the close of the third business day after learning of them.

Failed Alcohol Tests  

A failed alcohol test is one with an alcohol concentration of at least 0.04. The violation requires the return-to-duty process and is reported by the motor carrier to the Clearinghouse.

An alcohol concentration of 0.02-0.039 is not defined as a failed test, even though the driver is removed from duty for 24 hours. This event is not shared with the Clearinghouse.   

Actual Knowledge

Actual knowledge of drug or alcohol use is learned by the motor carrier in several ways, including:

  • Direct observation,
  • The driver’s admission,
  • Traffic citations, and
  • Information provided by former employers. 

Actual knowledge holds the same consequences as having a positive test result. 

Specific to alcohol, motor carriers must report:    

  • On-duty use,
  • Use four hours before coming on duty, and
  • Use within eight hours following an accident (when a post-accident test was not yet performed). 

A traffic citation may reveal driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol in a commercial motor vehicle requiring a CDL. This citation is reported to the database by the carrier. 

Refusals to Test

Clinics communicate many refusal-to-test scenarios to the motor carrier. Other situations are experienced first-hand. The following must be reported by the motor carrier to the Clearinghouse:

  • Not going for a test when instructed;
  • Showing up late (beyond reasonable travel time); 
  • Failing to remain at the testing site until the testing process is complete; 
  • Failing to cooperate with any part of the testing process; 
  • Failing to provide an adequate amount of saliva or breath for an alcohol test, without a valid medical explanation; and
  • Failure to sign the certification at Step 2 of the alcohol testing form.

Pre-employment tests, however, are handled a little differently than other DOT test types. Refusals to test only occur after the driver is taken back for testing. Up to that point, the driver can leave at any time.    

Benefits of Accurate Records

Motor carrier Clearinghouse administrators should be trained on the definitions of refusal to test and actual knowledge and the responsibility to report these infractions. Motor carriers must accurately communicate violations in a timely fashion. 

To do otherwise puts the credibility of the database at risk. Motor carriers must have the ability to identify whether a driver is qualified to perform a safety-sensitive function. 

About the Author: Kathy Close is a transportation editor at J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc. Her areas of expertise include transportation security, DOT drug and alcohol testing, and driver qualification. For more information e-mail transporteditors@jjkeller.com.

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