A lot can happen before an annual CDL Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse query. To be left in the dark about changes to a driver’s record puts a motor carrier at risk of placing an impaired driver behind the wheel.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is working to resolve this knowledge gap by notifying motor carriers if a driver’s Clearinghouse record changes within 12 months after their last query.
This change should help carriers identify violations occurring under another motor carrier’s drug or alcohol testing program.
Previously, such alerts were limited to 30 days following pre-employment queries.
What Prompts an Alert?
Changes in a driver’s Clearinghouse record that might generate an alert from the FMCSA include:
- A new violation (failed test, actual knowledge, or a refusal to test);
- An entry from a substance abuse professional (SAP);
- A negative return-to-duty test; or
- A completed follow-up testing program.
FMCSA’s regulations do not mandate that the carrier act on the alert that a driver’s record has changed.
However, FMCSA urges carriers to:
- Request a full follow-on query within 24 hours, and
- Verify the driver’s status (prohibited or not prohibited).
Motor carriers will not be charged for the follow-on query.
What About Follow-on Queries?
A follow-on query is a full query. A full query details the driver’s record, including whether the driver is prohibited from performing safety-sensitive functions. As with all full queries, the driver must consent through a personal Clearinghouse account. One must be created quickly if a driver needs an account.
Once a query request is made, the driver has 24 hours to consent. If the driver fails to create an account or refuses to consent during this window, the driver cannot return to safety-sensitive functions until the issue is resolved.
Suppose the full query shows an unresolved testing violation. In that case, the driver can only return to safety-sensitive functions once the necessary return-to-duty steps are completed and submitted to the Clearinghouse.
Suppose the change to the record resulted in completing a follow-up testing program or entering a negative return-to-duty test (Not Prohibited status). In that case, the driver can continue to perform safety-sensitive functions.
Understanding the New Annual Query Rotation
Once every 365 days, motor carriers must request an annual Clearinghouse query on drivers in CDL positions. Requesting a Clearinghouse query before the 12 months resets the rotation.
Consequentially, a follow-on Clearinghouse query:
- Satisfies the annual query requirement, and
- Allows motor carriers to change their annual rotation schedule based on the follow-on report date.
Key to Remember
When a motor carrier receives notification that a driver’s Clearinghouse record contains new information, a follow-on query should be requested within 24 hours to confirm that the driver is not prohibited from operating a commercial motor vehicle.
The risk of not knowing the facts should outweigh the time and effort of following up on the alert.