When a driver fails to provide consent to a limited or full query, he or she is unable to perform a safety-sensitive function for the motor carrier.   - Photo: Nextvoyage from Pexels

When a driver fails to provide consent to a limited or full query, he or she is unable to perform a safety-sensitive function for the motor carrier.  

Photo: Nextvoyage from Pexels

The CDL Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse is on track to launch Jan. 6, 2020. 

Despite the three-year lead time of the final rule, common questions continue to surface on how it will all play out. The following are the top five questions received by J. J. Keller, subject-matter experts on the clearinghouse: 

1. Who Is Subject to the Requirements? 

Motor carriers and CDL drivers who are subject to 49 CFR Part 382 are subject to the clearinghouse rule. Also, medical review officers (MROs) and substance abuse professionals (SAPs) are called upon to submit information on commercial drivers who have violated testing rules under Part 382. 

2. What Data Must Motor Carriers Provide? 

Motor carriers must report the following events (occurring on or after Jan. 6, 2020) to the clearinghouse:

  • Alcohol testing violations, including an alcohol concentration of 0.04 blood alcohol content (BAC) or higher and refusals to test.
  • Certain drug-testing scenarios where the employer makes the refusal to test determination. 
  • Actual knowledge of a driver’s drug or alcohol use through observation, driver admission, previous employers, or a DUI while operating a commercial motor vehicle.
  • Specific milestones in the SAP program, including:
    • A negative drug and/or alcohol return-to-duty test.
    • Successful completion of all follow-up tests.

3. What Do Service Agents Report?

MROs must report the following events (occurring on or after Jan. 6, 2020) to the database:

  • Drug test violations, including verified positive, adulterated, or substituted drug test results.
  • A refusal to test that is the result of a shy bladder (an inadequate quantity of urine) without a valid medical explanation.

SAPs must provide information on the following events (occurring on or after Jan. 6, 2020) including:

  • Successful completion of the DOT return-to-duty process (evaluation and treatment).
  • Eligibility for return-to-duty testing.

4. When Are Queries Requested?

Clearinghouse queries must be performed on anyone seeking or currently holding a position to operate a vehicle requiring a CDL (safety-sensitive position).

When a driver is hired or transferring into a safety-sensitive position, the motor carrier or its designated consortium/third-party administrator (C/TAP) must request a pre-employment query of the database. Also, the motor carrier or its designated C/TAP must perform an annual query on current safety-sensitive positions.

The pre-employment query is a full query. A full query discloses detailed information. It alerts motor carriers to drug and alcohol violations and completed steps in the return-to-duty process. 

The annual report is a limited query. A limited query checks for the presence of DOT drug and alcohol testing history in the clearinghouse for a CDL driver. If an annual limited query shows that information exists, the motor carrier must perform a full query to learn specifics. 

A motor carrier may have a policy to automatically request a full query for the annual investigation rather than a limited query. When a driver fails to provide consent to a limited or full query, he or she is unable to perform a safety-sensitive function for the motor carrier.  

5. Do All CDL Drivers Need a Clearinghouse Account?

Only drivers who must consent to a full query are required to have a clearinghouse account. A full query is required of drivers who:

  • Are applying for or transferring into a safety-sensitive position under Part 382.
  • Are subject to a full query as the result of the results of a limited annual query.
  • Have employers requiring full queries for annual investigations.

Driver consent for a full query must be performed in the portal via his or her personal clearinghouse account. A limited query consent is performed outside of the portal by the motor carrier. 

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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