Consortium Versus Clearinghouse: DOT Drug and Alcohol Requirements

If you are new to DOT regulations, these drug and alcohol testing requirements can be a bit confusing.

DOT auditors are letting us know that one of the most common violations they are seeing right now are CDL drivers not enrolled in a drug and alcohol testing program (or owner-operators working with a consortium), or the company is not registered or using the CDL Clearinghouse where DOT drug and alcohol violations are stored.

This became evident when a new carrier has their New Entrant Audit, which is required in the first 6-12 months of operation, and the auditor finds these mistakes.

The purpose of this article is to help drivers and carriers understand the differences between a Drug and Alcohol Consortium and the CDL Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, understand their requirements, and figure out which you need to use if any.

What is it?

What is a DOT Consortium?

Let’s start with the basics.

A DOT Consortium is a required DOT Drug and Alcohol Testing Program for companies with any employee operating a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) that requires a CDL in intrastate or interstate commerce.

“Qualified employees” include those who:

  • Drive a single vehicle with a gross vehicle weight (GVW) of 26,001 lbs. or more
  • Drive a vehicle, such as a truck (including a pick-up) or trailer (10,001 lbs. or more), and tow a unit with a gross weight of 26,001 lbs. or more
  • Drive a bus or limo with room for 16 or more passengers, including the driver
  • Drive a vehicle that hauls hazardous waste of any size, weight, or amount, which requires a hazard materials placard

This DOT drug and alcohol testing program must test “qualified employees” for:

  • Pre-Employment
  • Post-Accident
  • Random
  • Reasonable-Suspicion
  • Return-to-Duty
  • Follow-Up

Given the complexity of the DOT’s drug and alcohol testing requirements, most companies hire a Consortium/Third-Party Administrator (C-TPA) to help manage their drug testing program. Additionally, owner-operators must register with a consortium if they meet the requirements above and participate in the Consortium’s random testing pool.

Companies should look for a consortium, like CNS, that meets the DOT’s mandatory requirements for the following features:

  • Random Selections
  • Consulting
  • Company Drug and Alcohol Policy Support
  • 24/7 Emergency Support
  • Testing at Certified Labs
  • Collection Site Management
  • MRO Services
  • Clearinghouse Reporting for MRO/Collection Site
  • Recordkeeping and Reporting Assistance

What is the CDL Clearinghouse?

On January 6, 2020, the FMCSA launched the CDL Clearinghouse, an online database where CDL driver drug and alcohol testing violations and return-to-duty information will be stored and searched.

The purpose of the CDL Clearinghouse is to prevent job hopping of CDL drivers with positive drug and alcohol test results, refusal to test or information on a driver’s return-to-duty process.

Information in the Clearinghouse database will include:

  1. positive drug and alcohol test results
  2. refusal to test, and/or
  3. information on CDL driver’s return-to-duty process

Who Does It Apply To?

DOT Consortium

A DOT Consortium is required for any owner-operator who: 

  • Drive a single vehicle with a gross vehicle weight (GVW) of 26,001 lbs. or more
  • Drive a vehicle, such as a truck (including a pick-up) or trailer (10,001 lbs. or more), and tow a unit with a gross weight of 26,001 lbs. or more
  • Drive a bus or limo with room for 16 or more passengers, including the driver
  • Drive a vehicle that hauls hazardous waste of any size, weight, or amount, which requires a hazard materials placard

Though not required, most companies that have “qualified employees” hire a Consortium to help manage their drug and alcohol testing program.

Clearinghouse

The FMCSA Clearinghouse database will include drug and alcohol testing violations for CDL drivers operating a CMV that has a gross weight greater than 26,000 pounds, has more than 15 seatbelts or is hauling anything requiring DOT HAZMAT placards.

To use the database, employers and some drivers are required to register to the Clearinghouse.

This includes:

  • Employers of CDL drivers
  • Owner-operators
  • Drivers looking for a new job (pre-employment testing process), holding a commercial driver’s license (CDL) or commercial learner’s permit (CLP)

What is Required?

DOT Consortium

Most companies are not required to be enrolled in a consortium.

Single owner-operators are the only companies that must be enrolled in a DOT consortium. The reason for this is that they must follow certain requirements in the drug testing procedures.

Though not required, most companies that have “qualified employees” still hire a Consortium to help manage their drug and alcohol testing program.

This is because DOT drug testing programs require:

  • Company and Manager Education
  • Policy Requirements
  • Testing Procedures Requirements
  • Record Keeping Requirements
  • Clearinghouse Requirements
  • and more

Clearinghouse

Since this is a newer regulation that will not be fully implemented until 2023, there are requirements for employers and some drivers.

We want to stress that these rules do have consequences if not followed. Violations can occur if:

  • annual driver queries are not performed in a timely manner
  • required information is not loaded into the database, or
  • if pre-employment drug tests are performed before a new hire gives consent for a detailed query

Let’s break this down further.

For employers, there are three main requirements.

  1. Before the new hire driver can be tested, the employer needs to:
    • make sure the driver is registered to the FMCSA Clearinghouse,
    • then request electronic driver consent to run a detailed query,
    • run a query on the driver (employer or C/TPA), and
    • ensure no recent negative drug testing history is present
  2. Employers must query the Clearinghouse and request 3 years of drug and alcohol testing history until January 6, 2023. (After that, the clearinghouse query will replace the need for employer requests.)
    • Employers must run annual limited queries for current drivers at least once a year. If the limited query returns any results, a detailed query is required.

For CDL drivers, there are three main reasons they need to register to the DOT clearinghouse.

  1. drivers are changing employers
    • registering allows employers to run queries to gather useful information during the hiring process
  2. drivers are registering with an SAP after a violation, and
  3. currently employed drivers are giving consent for an annual query

Do you need a drug and alcohol consortium?

At CNS, our consortium provides drug screening management, coordination, and completion from the collection site, laboratory analysis, medical review, and record-keeping compliance.

Become a member today no matter how many drivers you need to be enrolled or where you are located across the country.

With over 10,000 collection sites nationwide, our dependable turnaround times are often released in 24 to 48 hours.

Our consortium clients have an online client portal where they have access to order their own chain of custody forms for a drug test, search collection sites near a driver location, see status of a chain, and more.

For more information, contact us at 888.260.9448 or info@cnsprotects.com.

Related news

Related news