FMCSA Nominee discusses Safety Regulations, Driver Retention and New Entrant Programs

FMCSA Nominee discusses Safety Regulations, Driver Retention and New Entrant Programs

Serving as deputy administrator of FMCSA since January 2021, Meera Joshi is waiting to be confirmed as the next FMCSA administrator.

Prior to her nomination, Joshi served as chair and CEO of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, general manager of the New York Office of Sam Schwartz Transportation Consultants and was a visiting scholar at the New York University Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management.

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation could vote on her nomination any day, which would go to the Senate floor for official confirmation.

As we wait for her confirmation, let us look at what the future could bring for the trucking and transportation industry under her leadership.

What is the FMCSA focused on in the next few years?

With more than 500,000 interstate carriers and 4.7 million commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders across the nation, the FMCSA and its 1,100 employees will oversee significant changes for drivers and carriers. 

Joshi met with the senate committee on Sept. 22 where she shared her views on regulating the trucking industry, shortening detention times for drivers, roadway safety, and how technology will play a more significant role in the FMCSA approach to self-driving vehicles and increased artificial intelligence in trucks.

Infrastructure Bill

To begin, Joshi supports the bipartisan hard infrastructure bill that may be nearing approval. The bill will:

  • increase funding for FMCSA state partners to hire additional personnel for roadside inspections and reach the true breadth of the vast commercial motor vehicle (CMV) industry
  • provide FMCSA and states the opportunity to increase investigative and enforcement resources focused on high-risk motor carriers and in high crash zones
  • support essential upgrades to states’ IT infrastructure to improve CMV driver data collection and transfer, as well as allow for the integration of safety technology into CMV fleets

FMCSA Safety Regulations

When it comes to safety regulations, Joshi mentions four important priorities:

  1. Electronic transfer of license data between states: This rulemaking is in the final months of getting published for interstate cooperation as there needs to be swift and current data transfer between states around CDL licensure.
  2. Have state’s downgrade license if a positive drug test is submitted to FMCSA’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse to keep risky drivers off the roads
  3. Strengthening FMCSA’s new entrant program
  4. Increase the scope of motor carrier investigations to encompass more at-risk behavior

As a new entrant, it is required to follow Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations and they will want to see some established records and processes during your New Entrant Safety Audit that will happen within the first 12 months of operation to complete the New Entrant Program.

Tips For New Drivers Rushing To Become Owner-Operators

Commercial Truck Driver Retention

When it comes to decreasing unpaid driver detention time, Joshi mentioned creating the financial incentives for shippers and port operators to decrease that time so that that financial burden doesn’t fall on truckers.

Lastly, about driver retention and capacity, Joshi mentioned the pilot program for the FMCSA to allow 18 to 21-year-old drivers to participate in interstate commerce apprenticeship programs. There are several provisions she mentioned with this program:

  • They must have a CDL license to begin with
  • There is an hours-of-service requirement
  • There is a safeguard within the legislation for termination, if there are any safety concerns, and
  • The program requires the FMCSA to do a very important study on driver compensation, including paid and unpaid detention time

DOT Training

All fleets need to conduct proper and thorough pre and post trip inspections, which consists of implementing quality:

  • driver training that is ongoing and consistent
  • driver education, and
  • driver awareness of current and changing traffic laws

All of this will help prevent being targeted by the DOT at roadside inspections and is a valuable resource to ensure a healthy fleet, and compliant safety practices.

Our DOT trainers offer a variety of in-person or online training courses tailored to the specific needs or weaknesses of your company.

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.

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. 

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

What is the FMCSA Clearinghouse? Common issues and FAQs

What is the FMCSA Clearinghouse? | DOT Compliance Services | CNS

What is the FMCSA Clearinghouse?

On January 6, 2020, the FMCSA launched the FMCSA 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 FMCSA 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.

Read: Major CDL Clearinghouse Deadline Approaching or Face Fines

DOT Clearinghouse: Employers and CDL Drivers

There are many new procedures that drivers, employers, consortium/TPAs and others must follow 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 drug testing process when hiring a potential new driver before a pre-employment drug test can be done at a collection site.

What is required of employers?

  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

After the detailed query is done, the pre-employment drug test can continue as part of the pre-employment new-hire process.

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

  1. 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.
  1. 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.

What is required of CDL drivers?

There are 3 reasons why CDL drivers 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

Let us know how we can help:
Ask us about our Drug and Alcohol Services

FMCSA Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse FAQ

Is the FMCSA Clearinghouse mandatory?

Yes, it is mandatory if your business is governed by the FMCSA.

Information in the FMCSA 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
    • if the CMV has a gross weight greater than 26,000 pounds, has more than 15 seatbelts or is hauling anything requiring DOT HAZMAT placards.

Who must register for the FMCSA clearinghouse?

Registration is mandatory for authorized users so they are able to access the Clearinghouse database and the information mentioned above.

Authorized users include:

  • Drivers holding a commercial driver’s license (CDL) or commercial learner’s permit (CLP)
  • Employers of CDL drivers. This includes those who employ themselves as CDL drivers (i.e. – owner-operators)
  • Consortia/Third-Party Administrators (C/TPAs)
  • Medical Review Officers (MROs)
  • Substance Abuse Professionals (SAPs)

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

Note: CMV drivers are not required to immediately register for the clearinghouse; however, they will need to register to respond to pre-employment queries or other full queries.


How do CDL drivers register for the FMCSA Clearinghouse?

To register, or for assistance registering, drivers can go to the
DOT Clearinghouse website for instructions.

How do employers register for the FMCSA Clearinghouse?

To register, or for assistance registering, employers can go to the
DOT Clearinghouse website for instructions.


FMCSA Clearinghouse registration issues

The FMCSA Clearinghouse registration process faced many issues when first launched, most of which are now fixed.

Some of the common issues that employers or owner-operators may face when registering include:

  1. Companies have set up their FMCSA Portal account and do not remember their user-ID, security questions, or email address on the account.
    • Solution: Call the FMCSA to prove who they are before gaining access.
    • This is currently not required to register, as there is a work around in our video above.
  2. Companies have not set-up an FMCSA Portal account and forgot their DOT Pin number.
    • Solution: Fill out a form to request their pin.
    • If you are a carrier before 2010, and there is an old email or no email or phone number, the government will have to mail your DOT Pin number, taking 7-10 business days.
    • This is currently not required to register, as there is a work around in our video above.
  3. Owner-operators seeing errors preventing query purchases is most likely because they are seen as the “employer” and the “driver” and are stuck in the “driver” role.
    • Issue: If you hover over “My Dashboard” and see “Queries” and click “Buy”, an error can pop up.
    • Solution: To get around this, look for the dark blue text that says “Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse”, click there. This sort of refreshes your dashboard and you should now see an option to “Change Your Role”. You need to change your role from “Driver” to “Employer”. Now, you can hover over “My Dashboard”, and click “Buy” where it says queries.

FMCSA Clearinghouse Problems, Hiring Delays and Violations

With any major regulatory rollout, there are always unforeseen issues or new problems that appear.

Some of these problems include:

  1. January 2021, Clearinghouse website may crash again.
    • 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.
  2. FMCSA Clearinghouse will catch drivers at roadside.
    • According to the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, starting 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 and employers will need to arrange for another driver to pick up the load.
  3. Hiring driver process issues:
    • Employer sends a consent request, but the driver has not registered to the Clearinghouse to authorize consent.
      • FMCSA will mail a letter to the driver regarding the consent request (2-3 week process)
    • Employer falsely tells a drug testing site that driver consent was given. If audited, the employer can be held at fault if the violation of no consent was caught, causing delays in the pre-employment testing process, headaches for companies and drug testing sites not up-to-date on Clearinghouse rules.
  4. What happens if you fail or refuse a DOT drug screen?
    • In the first 2 months the DOT Clearinghouse was in effect, over 11,000 drivers were found with a positive drug test and must begin the return-to-duty and SAP process before getting back on the road.

Learn more about:
DOT SAP and Return-To-Duty Process


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.