Lessons Learned One Year After Launch of Drug and Alcohol CDL Clearinghouse

fmcsa cdl clearinghouse annual queries

Last year, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) increased its random drug testing rate of CDL drivers  from 25% to 50%, effective January 1, 2020.

For the random drug testing rate to fall back to 25%, the annual random positive rate must be below 1% for three consecutive years from data voluntarily submitted by carriers.

According to the recent drug and alcohol CDL Clearinghouse report, 56,158 drug and alcohol violations were recorded last year in a database intended to track truck drivers’ compliance history and prevent them from job-hopping in the event of a failed drug test.

With over 5.1 million drivers under the authority of FMCSA, the annual positive rate with this data would be around 1.1% resulting in an unlikely random drug testing rate drop until 2024 or later.

CDL Clearinghouse 2020 Stats

The CDL Clearinghouse program took effect on January 6, 2020 where all trucking companies with operating authority—including owner-operators—are required to register in the clearinghouse and conduct a yearly query on each driver.

During 2020, there were 5% more drug and alcohol violations than what FMCSA estimated when the Clearinghouse was being launched and over 1.4 million pre-employment queries conducted. Besides pre-employment, employers are required to make annual checks on the database to ensure none of their employees have any drug violations.

According to the report, the top number of drug test failures were for marijuana (29,500) and cocaine use (7,940). There were also 1,120 tests described as reasonable suspicion of attempts to cheat on a drug test.

Additionally, over 45,000 drivers (0.86% of the workforce) are still unable to drive while 35,000 drivers have not even begun the return-to-work substance abuse counseling process.

Learn more about the DOT SAP and Return-to-Duty Process

According to Duane DeBruyne, an FMCSA spokesman, “The good news is that the system is working in capturing violations by drivers and allowing employers and enforcement personnel to verify a driver’s status prior to permitting him/her to drive. Any violation reported is a bad thing; blocking prohibited drivers from endangering themselves and the lives of the motoring public is a good thing.”

The Future of the CDL Clearinghouse

While carriers and state driver licensing agencies frequently use the Clearinghouse database, law enforcement officials are also using the database to check a driver’s drug and alcohol violations.

According to the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, as of April 1, 2020, “drivers who are prohibited from driving, per the CDL Clearinghouse, will immediately be put out-of-service by CVSA roadside enforcement inspectors. These drivers will not be allowed to leave the scales driving a CMV, and employers will have to arrange for another driver to pick up the load.”

For drivers that work for multiple companies, one of their companies may catch the drug testing violation and prevent the driver from operating with them until the SAP process is completed.

However, the other companies the driver works for do not know of the recent violation and the driver can illegally drive until they are caught after a detailed audit or an annual query is performed.

According to CVSA’s new inspection guidance, “roadside personnel must verify a driver’s status based on the clearinghouse data when stopping drivers with a CDL or CLP for a driver/vehicle examination or roadside inspection.”

Also, carriers are required to perform a clearinghouse query on all drivers annually or face a fine of up to $2,500 per offense if non-compliance surfaces in a compliance review or safety audit.

Most carriers who have not run their annual driver queries have likely passed this annual deadline for the drivers they loaded into the system last year. 

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