DOT Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse Crash Course

When it comes to an industry as regulated as trucking, it is only normal to have a system to check all truck drivers against previous violations. The goal is, of course, to facilitate the safest conditions for commercial vehicles on the road.

The latest in the line of these systems is the DOT drug and alcohol clearinghouse. The FMCSA launched the clearinghouse on January 6, 2020, with the purpose to prevent drivers who have violated drug & alcohol rules from job-hopping and lying on job interviews.

Here is everything you, as a driver, need to know about the DOT Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse.

What Is the DOT Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse?

The federal Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse is an electronic database that tracks licensed CMV (commercial motor vehicle) drivers who have failed (tested positive on) a drug or alcohol test or refused to take one altogether.

Or, in other words, the database contains information related to drivers who violated the controlled substances and alcohol testing programs mandated by the Department of Transportation for all CDL holders and commercial learner’s permit (CLP) holders.

The clearinghouse gives employers and government agencies real-time access to information about CDL driver drug and alcohol program violations with the purpose of vetting prospective drivers and clearing them before giving them a truck and putting them on the road.

Below is a video provided by the FMCSA that explains the purpose of the Clearinghouse.

Who Has to Report to the Clearinghouse?

The DOT Clearinghouse’s final rule mandates the following to report any information related to violations of the drug and alcohol regulations: 

  • FMCSA-regulated employers, 
  • Medical review officers (MROs), 
  • Substance abuse professionals (SAPs), 
  • Consortia/third party administrators (C/TPAs), 
  • Other service agents.

The Clearinghouse requires employers to do the following with its final rule:

  • Query the Clearinghouse for current and prospective employees’ drug and alcohol violations before permitting said employees to operate a CMV on public roads;
  • Annually query the Clearinghouse for each driver they currently employ.

Is the DOT Clearinghouse Mandatory for Drivers?

While drivers are not required to register for the Clearinghouse, following the mandatory need of employers to do a Clearinghouse check of prospective or current employees, when the employer conducts a query of the driver’s Clearinghouse record, the driver will need to give their consent. In order to give consent, the driver must be registered with the Clearinghouse.

Additionally, all drivers will have a Clearinghouse record at some point. To view their record, the driver will need to register a Clearinghouse account electronically.

The FMCSA Clearinghouse homepage.
The FMCSA Clearinghouse homepage

DOT Clearinghouse for Owner-Operators

Since owner-operator truck drivers are a one-man fleet, they are also required to register for the DOT Clearinghouse.

Are Employers Required to Use the FMCSA Clearinghouse?

All FMCSA-regulated employers are required to use the Clearinghouse on all currently employed drivers. Additionally, as part of the pre-employment investigation on a prospective driver, FMCSA-regulated employers must perform a full query within the Clearinghouse.

As the FMCSA states, “Employers are required to query the Clearinghouse for current and prospective employees’ drug and alcohol violations before permitting those employees to operate a CMV on public roads.” Additionally, the FMCSA adds “Employers are required to annually query the Clearinghouse for each driver they currently employ.”

All employers who do not comply with the Clearinghouse requirements are subject to criminal penalties and/or civil fines. The fines do not exceed $2,500 for each offense.

Truck Driver Rights and Responsibilities Under the Clearinghouse

Since the clearinghouse affects drivers as much as it affects employers, it is great to learn the responsibilities and rights you, as a driver, have under the DOT clearinghouse.

  • If you change companies, you will have to register with the clearinghouse so you can give permission to your next employer to make queries and view your clearinghouse information.
  • In the case you stay within the current employer until retirement, you will probably not need to access the clearinghouse at all.
  • If you refuse access to your clearinghouse profile to an employer, you will impact your employability because the employer is required by law to check you against the clearinghouse.
  • In the occurence that you have been submitted to drug and alcohol treatment programs (and passed them), the clearinghouse is designed to protect you.
  • Even if you do not plan on changing employers any time soon, you can still access to the clearinghouse database and review your records at no cost.
  • You will be notified by email about any changes of the information contained in your clearinghouse profile.