States Will Downgrade CDLs Quickly for Recent FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Violations

States Will Downgrade CDLs Quickly for Recent FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Violations

FMCSA Will Notify States of Recent Drug and Alcohol Violations and Require States 60 Days to Revoke CDLs

One of the biggest FMCSA drug testing loopholes is closing as state driver license agencies (SLDAs) will soon be required to initiate the downgrade process for licenses of drivers who have a drug or alcohol violation in the Clearinghouse.

States are already required to check FMCSA’s Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse database for violations before issuing new licenses or renewing the licenses and must not “issue, renew, upgrade or transfer a commercial driver’s license, or commercial learner’s permit when a driver has tested positive for drugs or alcohol.”

As of August, 87,438 drivers had at least one drug or alcohol violation, according to the Clearinghouse database.

However, most of these state agencies do not currently receive the CDL driver drug and alcohol violations when they first happen.

“Therefore, these SDLAs are unaware when a commercial motor vehicle operator is subject to the driving prohibition, and the CMV operator continues to hold a valid CDL or CLP, despite the driving prohibition,” said a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in their announcement.

Federal regulators are requiring SDLAs to remove the CDL holders driving privileges within 60 days after being notified of a test failure and prohibiting certain CDL transactions for drivers in the database.

There are two ways the FMCSA will notify state agencies:

  • FMCSA will “push” the information to the SDLA whenever a drug or alcohol program violation is reported to the Clearinghouse for a CLP or CDL holder licensed in that State.
  • FMCSA will also “push” a notification to the SDLA when the driver complies with return-to-duty requirements and is no longer prohibited from operating a CMV.

In addition, “if FMCSA determines that a driver was erroneously identified as prohibited, the Agency will notify the SDLA that the individual is not prohibited from operating a CMV; the SDLA must promptly reinstate the commercial driving privilege to the driver’s license, and expunge the driving record accordingly.”

Future of the FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse and Exemption Requests

The rule will help keep unsafe drivers off the road by increasing compliance “with the CMV driving prohibition”.

Most of the licensing agencies said that even if FMCSA notified the driver of an impending downgrade, they would still be required to notify the driver directly, as required by state law.

The rule is effective Nov. 8, 2021 and states must achieve “substantial compliance” with the applicable requirements of the final rule as soon as practicable, but not later than Nov. 18, 2024.

Need Clearinghouse and Compliance help?

It is important to note that effective January 6, 2023, the FMCSA clearinghouse will become the sole query source for employers to meet the requirement to identify prospective drivers with drug and alcohol violations.

Right now, carriers must request previous employment for drug testing history and query the Clearinghouse database.

Carriers must also perform a clearinghouse query on all drivers annually. If non-compliance surfaces in a compliance review or safety audit, a carrier faces a fine of up to $2,500 per offense.

CNS offers a comprehensive Drug and Alcohol Consortium Service and are a certified consortium and third-party administrator (C/TPA).

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

Future of the FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse and Exemption Requests

fmcsa cdl clearinghouse annual queries

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

According to the April 2021 CDL Clearinghouse report, drug and alcohol violations are pacing around 60,000 each year, consistent with 2020 Clearinghouse data of 56,000 violations.

With over 5.1 million drivers under the authority of FMCSA, the annual positive rate would be 1.12%, likely delaying the random drug testing rate drop from 50% to 25% until 2025 or later.

With the Biden administration still in their first year, DOT priorities are being outlined and changes to the CDL Clearinghouse are likely coming.

But what changes are on the horizon? 

 

Biden nominates a data-centric regulator to head FMCSA

Meera Joshi, a New York City taxi regulator who pioneered the use of data tools to weed out unsafe drivers and devised a pay protection program for drivers working for app-based services, has been serving as deputy and acting FMCSA administrator since January.

She has been nominated to lead the FMCSA.

If she is confirmed, a full plate of issues await her, including the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) Program, proposals to lower the legal age for commercial truck drivers, autonomous vehicles, and the impact of the new drug and alcohol test clearinghouse.

Most notable is a proposed rule that would revise the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse. According to the abstract listed with the rule, the proposal would “streamline and improve error-correction procedures, queries and consent requirements.” As of right now, the notice of proposed rulemaking is expected in February 2022.

 

FMCSA Clearinghouse Exemptions

Other likely changes coming to the drug and alcohol Clearinghouse are exemption requests.

Last year, the Motion Picture Compliance Solutions (MPCS) exemption to the FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse Rule has been granted after stating that it did not fit their industry’s model.

According to the FMCSA, MPCS specifically requested “an exemption from the requirement that an employer must not employ a driver who is subject to drug and alcohol testing to perform safety-sensitive functions prior to conducting a full query of the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse.” Instead, the MPCS would conduct a limited query of the Clearinghouse before an employer can hire a driver for a project.

In March, the transportation company FirstGroup requested a similar exemption from FMCSA’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse pre-employment full query because it is costing them “hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

The company applied for the exemption on behalf of three of its subsidiaries, First Student, First Transit, and First Mile Square and is the largest provider of home-to-school transportation in North America with a fleet of 43,000 yellow school buses.

FirstGroup says the full query requirement is “hindering its ability to hire at the speed and level needed to keep pace with the demands of the contracted school and transit transportation industry.” The company added that the delays and administrative costs stemming from full query has resulted in “hundreds of thousands of dollars of increased costs.”

Like the MPCS exemption, First Group is requesting FMCSA to allow it to conduct a limited pre-employment query of the Clearinghouse. If the limited query indicated that information about the driver existed in the Clearinghouse, the company would then conduct a full query with the consent of the driver. As part of the exemption request, FirstGroup also would conduct a second limited query within 30 to 55 days of the initial limited query and conduct multiple limited queries on all its’ CDL drivers each year.

As one commenter on the request noted, if approved, this would “open the flood gate that will surely result in additional carriers applying for the same exception.”

Regardless of the outcome to this exemption request, more exemption requests are likely to come as hiring pressure builds and inflated costs continue to burden larger carriers.

Whether or not the exemptions are approved is yet to be seen and will depend highly on the situation of the particular carrier requesting the exemption.

 

Need Clearinghouse and Compliance help?

It is important to note that effective January 6, 2023, the FMCSA clearinghouse will become the sole query source for employers to meet the requirement to identify prospective drivers with drug and alcohol violations.

Right now, carriers must request previous employment for drug testing history and query the Clearinghouse database.

Carriers must also perform a clearinghouse query on all drivers annually. If non-compliance surfaces in a compliance review or safety audit, a carrier faces a fine of up to $2,500 per offense.

CNS offers a comprehensive Drug and Alcohol Consortium Service and are a certified consortium and third-party administrator (C/TPA).

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

Major CDL Clearinghouse Deadline Approaching or Face Fines

fmcsa cdl clearinghouse annual queries

According to Landline Magazine on Dec 30, several owner-operators are experiencing difficulties registering for FMCSA’s Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse and that they haven’t found any help through the agency’s 800 number as Clearinghouse hits traffic jam.

Do you remember the beginning of 2020 when the crash of the FMCSA’s CDL Clearinghouse website caused registration confusion?

The launch was supposed to be a smooth process as companies had three months prior to register. But few did.

As a result of so many people attempting to register through the website at the last minute, the website was overloaded and crashed, causing registration errors and quick fixes just to get people in the system.

The FMCSA Clearinghouse is an online database where new drug and alcohol testing violations and return-to-duty information of CDL drivers is stored and searched.

This database has worked well in preventing drug users from job hopping, as well as open the book on what is happening real-time with the trucking industry drug testing statistics.

In the first 8 months the Clearinghouse was in effect, over 35,000 drivers were found with a positive drug test forcing them  to begin the return-to-duty and SAP process before getting back on the road.


DOT’s Clearinghouse faces a key test as fleets will likely flood the system in the coming weeks — CCJ Article

“We’ll see what happens with it,” said Lucas Kibby, marketing specialist at Compliance Navigation Specialists. “There’s going to be a large influx of people going to the site around the end of December and into the first few weeks of January, when people start realizing the rules.”

CCJ Article – Nov 4, 2020

According to the latest Clearinghouse report, marijuana accounted for nearly half of the positive drug test results, followed by cocaine, methamphetamine, and amphetamine.

However, we are now less than three months away from another major Clearinghouse deadline where companies could face fines, if in violation.

Clearinghouse website may crash again as required annual query deadline approaches

With the FMCSA Clearinghouse now in effect for pre-employment, random testing and return-to-duty processes, employers of CDL drivers must follow a new pre-employment process when hiring a potential new driver.

Violations can occur if required information is not loaded into the database, or if new-hired drivers start driving before a new hire gives consent for a detailed query.

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.

The other major required process for employers, including owner-operators, is to annually query all current CDL drivers at least once a year to make sure no violations appeared in the database. If the limited query returns any results, a detailed query is required.

This means the majority of CDL drivers need to have had a limited query run on them by January 6, 2021 or face potential violations and fines if found to be done late or not at all during an audit.

Early Clearinghouse registration issues led officials to advise employers to wait to register until December 2020 or January 2021. Consequently, a large spike in DOT Clearinghouse web traffic is expected as companies rush to register and submit annual queries to the DOT Clearinghouse before the deadline.

What fleets need to do before 2021 deadline

Every employer with CDL drivers needs to verify that they are registered to the FMCSA Clearinghouse. After registering, employers will purchase query tokens that will be used to when they want to run limited or detailed queries on their drivers or potential new drivers.

Check out our industry library resources of 15 videos, 2 ebooks, industry links, and CNS In The News content.

Owner-operators should purchase around 5 query token to run their annual queries each year, lasting them five years before they need to purchase more tokens.

Larger fleets should purchase query plans around two-and-a-half times their driver size to last two years of annual queries and a handful of new hire drivers.

Finally, annual queries can be ran on all CDL drivers within the company.


Drug and Alcohol Services

Do you need help registering to the FMCSA Clearinghouse or looking to switch to a trusted drug testing consortium?

At CNS, we offer a comprehensive Drug and Alcohol Consortium Service and are a certified consortium and third-party administrator (C/TPA).

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

2020 Clearinghouse Rule changes: Forms Reporting (part 2)


The new 2020 Clearinghouse Rule went into effect on January 6, 2020. Even as new laws are rolled out, there can be last minute changes. At CNS, we want to be sure we’re keeping you up to date on the latest news and information regarding the Clearinghouse, as well as other U.S. DOT regulations.

On December 17, 2019, the U.S. Department of Transportation released a bulletin changing the data requirements on two of their forms relating to the Clearinghouse.

Here’s what is important to know about the upcoming change in recording information on these forms.

Which forms are being changed?

The two forms being changed are:

What has changed on the forms?

The main change to these forms is the way drivers are identified in the form when positive test results are reported.

Currently, you can use either the driver’s social security number (SSN) or their employee Identification number (EIN) when recording on these forms.

Effective January 6, 2020, you will be required to use the commercial driver’s license number (CDL) only when positive drug or alcohol tests are reported via these two forms.

Who do these form changes affect?

  • Employers
  • Consortia/Third Party Administrators (C/TPAs)
  • Collection sites
  • Laboratories
  • Medical Review Officers (MROs)

How can I stay compliant with this change?

Our Compliance Specialists can assist you with any questions you might have. Please call us at 888.260.9448 or email us at info@cnsprotects.com.

Employers should check data systems to ensure compliance

The best way to ensure compliance when reporting positive drug and alcohol test results to the Clearinghouse via the CCF and ATF forms is to check your current data systems. Moving forward, data systems need the capability to input an identification number of up to 25 characters in order to enter a CDL number.

Employers must annotate accurately

When completing the CCF or the ATF, the entry personnel “must annotate the driver’s CDL number and State of Issuance in Step 1, Section C of the CCF or Step 1B of the ATF for each FMCSA-regulated test.”

Medical Review Officers (MROs) should follow up on missing data

When an MRO receives a CCF form without a driver’s CDL number and State of Issuance, they should follow up to obtain this missing data. Contact the driver, the driver’s employee, or the designated employer representative to obtain the accurate information.

The MRO should report all verified positive tests results in the Clearinghouse.

Stay updated on the new Clearinghouse Rule

As the new Clearinghouse rolls out in 2020 and into the future, there may be more changes and adjustments. The CNS blog will keep you updated on all news, changes, and support you and your company in staying compliant with the new Clearinghouse Rule.

Please be sure your company and your employees register with the Clearinghouse by January 6, 2020 to avoid delays in processing forms and new hires.

For additional information on the Clearinghouse, including FAQ and Registration information, visit https://clearinghouse.fmcsa.dot.gov.


Drug and Alcohol Services

Compliance Navigation Specialists offer a comprehensive Drug and Alcohol Consortium Administration Services (C/TPA).

We work with Quest Diagnostics and have over 10,000 locations available for testing.

If you have any questions, call 888.260.9448 or email at info@cnsprotects.com.

Comply with 2020 mandatory Clearinghouse Rule (part 1)


Major CDL Clearinghouse Deadline Approaching or Face Fines

On January 6, 2020, the Clearinghouse Rule, implemented by Congress in 2016, goes into mandatory effect.

How does this impact drivers and companies?

It depends on the size of your fleet, but one fact is clear, every carrier must participate.

Of course, all drivers with a CDL have already had to comply with the FMCSA Drug and Alcohol regulations. Until now, all CDL drivers should have been in a random drug-and-alcohol consortium. However, the new Rule goes a step further than that.

Beginning January 6, 2020, all drivers holding a CDL are responsible for setting up an account in the Clearinghouse, including large-to-mid-sized fleets and owner-operators.

If you need assistance setting up an account in the Clearinghouse, please call us at 888.260.9448 or email us at info@cnsprotects.com.

The FMCSA is aware that not all CDL drivers are currently registered in a drug-and-alcohol consortium. With the new regulations finally going into effect, it will be virtually impossible for owner-operators to avoid being in the Clearinghouse.

For instance, all drivers need to have an annual query (an electronic check) run in the Clearinghouse. Therefore, an owner-operator, employing themselves as a single-driver, must hire a consortium or third-party administrator (C/TPA) to run a query.

Or, a driver looking to switch employers needs to be in the Clearinghouse for a prospective employer to run a full query. Queries will show whether there is anything in the Clearinghouse on that driver that requires further investigation or prohibits them from performing safety-sensitive functions.

We offer a comprehensive Drug and Alcohol Consortium Services and are a certified consortium and third-party administrator (C/TPA). If you are in need consortium management, contact us at 888.260.9448 or info@cnsprotects.com.

What information is stored in the Clearinghouse?

The CDL Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse will store three years of data on drivers including positive drug tests, test refusals, and alcohol violations. Complete and incomplete return-to-duty processes will also be recorded. This information will remain in the Clearinghouse database for three years.

Employers and fleets may run two types of queries:

  • Full queries (required for new hires) supply all information details
  • Limited queries (required for all drivers annually) will only reveal whether or not the database contains any information on the driver; carriers can ask for full queries after that finding

Ensure compliance with new FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Regulations

Now that the Clearinghouse Rule becomes mandatory in less than a month, here’s what drivers and companies can do to become compliant:

CDL Drivers

All CDL drivers need to have an account for any prospective or current employer to run the required new-hire queries. Drivers can also view records and petition for any corrections as needed.

If you are a CDL driver, you can follow the steps below.

  1. Register an account in the Clearinghouse
  2. Provide electronic consent to release information during a full query
    1. If a driver does not give consent within 24 hours, they are disqualified from driving until authorization is given
  3. Review records for accuracy
  4. Identify a Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) to report on return-to-duty activities if unresolved violations are on record

Owner-operators (one-truck/independent)

Any single-driver operation must comply with requirements for BOTH employees (drivers) and employers (fleets/companies).

If you are a one-truck or independent owner-operator, you can follow the steps below.

  1. Register an account in the Clearinghouse as a company
  2. Designate a consortium or third-party administrator (C/TPA) to handle queries. This is required of all owner-operators (Contact Compliance Navigation Specialists)
  3. Notify the consortium (or TPA) that they are the designee.
  4. Amend any contracts to reflect the designated consortium (Designation and contract amendments will be two separate steps, and both must be carried out)
  5. Purchase bundles of queries for the consortium to query the database on an annual basis

OPTIONAL: Invite assistants/other employees to allow them access to the Clearinghouse on your behalf. They should register as part of your company.

Owner-operators (leased)

If you are a leased owner-operator, you can follow the steps below.

  1. Register an account in the Clearinghouse
  2. Although not explicitly stated in the Rule, an account is needed for switching fleets, as each new fleet will need to make a query
  3. Provide electronic consent for full queries

Small and large fleet operators

The two main changes for small and large fleet operators are amending policies and employee information.

If you are a small or large fleet operator, you can follow the steps below.

  1. Register as an employer in the Clearinghouse
  2. Purchase bundles of queries
  3. Amend fleet policies to reflect that any positive drug tests, test refusals, or violations will be submitted to the Clearinghouse
  4. Explain these new policies to drivers prior to January 6, 2020
  5. Determine if administration of drug-screening will be handled in-house or outsourced. If outsourced, designate the provider in the Clearinghouse and contract them as a designee (Designation and contract amendments will be two separate steps, and both must be carried out)
  6. Continue to call applicant’s prior employees to ask about failed or refused drug tests until 2023. Since the Clearinghouse will not reflect past data, it will take three years until the Clearinghouse is fully up-to-date.

OPTIONAL: Designate a consortium or third-party administrator (C/TPA) to handle queries.

Learn more about changes to Clearinghouse reporting forms


Drug and Alcohol Services

Register now to ensure compliance with FMCSA regulations

Compliance Navigation Specialists offer a comprehensive Drug and Alcohol Consortium Administration Services (C/TPA).

We work with Quest Diagnostics and have over 10,000 locations available for testing.

If you have any questions, call 888.260.9448 or email at info@cnsprotects.com.