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.

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.

  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.
  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.
  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).

If you have any questions, call (888) 260-9448 or email at info@cnsprotects.com.