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The Last Word

Happy Birthday to the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse!

By Marilyn Surber

On Jan. 6, 2020, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration launched the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse that would allow employers to have quick access to the drug testing violation history. For the last three years, every employer has been required to add drug testing information for its current drivers and to check (query) the drug testing history for new hires.

At three-years-old, the Clearinghouse should officially have enough data to give a clearer picture of drug testing in the industry. It’s hard to believe we are here already. What have we learned over the past three years and what does this milestone mean for carriers trying to qualify and hire professional truck drivers?

We have learned that the Clearinghouse is working, and it is identifying drug use in current and potential drivers. We have also learned that hair-testing results cannot be reported so we still need to close that loophole. 

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As of Jan. 6, 2023, a pre-employment Clearinghouse query satisfies the requirement to investigate a prospective driver’s previous drug and alcohol program violations.

Employers of CDL drivers are required to conduct background investigations before hiring a driver. This process includes determining if the driver has violated the drug and alcohol regulations of any Department of Transportation (DOT) mode within the past three years.

As of Jan. 6, 2023, three years of violation data is now stored in the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse. This means that prospective employers must conduct a pre-employment query of the Clearinghouse.

Limited circumstances where drug and alcohol verifications are still required

  • If driver was subject to a drug and alcohol program regulated by another agency other than FMCSA (e.g., Federal Transit Association, FAA, etc.),hiring employers still have to request drug and alcohol information from those prior employers as this information is not reported to the Clearinghouse.
  • When an employee who is subject to follow-up testing has not successfully completed all follow up testing, hiring employers must request follow-up testing plan from prior employer.

As a carrier you are not prohibited by regulation or FMCSA to request drug and alcohol results directly from carriers, and many carriers will continue to do so in addition to the Clearinghouse requirement.

Keep in mind if you continue to request these results from the carriers directly, they are no longer obligated by regulation or FMCSA to either provide or respond to those requests. This option is not without risk as it is no longer mandatory.

Consult with your legal counsel to determine the best path forward for your company to minimize liability and risk. It is important to remember that nothing has changed as it pertains to the required annual query, and carriers still need to obtain a signed release from drivers.

One big lesson we have learned since the implementation of the Clearinghouse is that legalization of medical and medicinal marijuana in states across the U.S. is a huge barrier to the ongoing recruitment and retention of the next generation of drivers.

The numbers tell the story, and the latest numbers from FMCSA reflect the uptick in positive drug screens, specifically as it pertains to marijuana usage. The data also tells us that drivers are not completing SAP programs and going through the Return-To-Duty Process.

These numbers are something all in our industry should be aware of. This is one of the biggest issues impacting our ability as an industry to attract the next generation of talent to trucking.

Marilyn Surber is the transportation leader at Tenstreet, a recruiting and driver management software company.

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Arkansas Trucking Association
PO Box 3476 (72203)
1401 West Capitol Ave.
Suite 185
Little Rock, AR 72201

(501) 372-3462 | Phone
(501) 376-1810 | Fax

Our Mission

  • PROTECT the collective interests of trucking companies in the political and regulatory arenas.
  • PROMOTE the dynamics of trucking so that people have a better understanding of the link between America's primary freight delivery system and the standard of living they enjoy.
  • SERVE our members to help them to grow their business and their profits
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