Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Take these steps to ensure full implementation of the FMCSA Clearinghouse

By Tommy Eden, Partner
Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete, LLP

As with most mandated Federal Regulations, resistance is futile to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse with regulated employers and CDL driver registration opening last October for registration with full implementation by January 6, 2020.

FMCSA’s Clearinghouse is a secure online database that will give employers, federal and state enforcement personnel, and state driver licensing agencies real-time access to important information about past CDL driver drug and alcohol program violations.

There has been a lot of confusion about the program in recent months with its current registration processes and the looming enforcement date, but if fleet managers follow the following steps to compliance, a transition to the program will be smooth and seamless.

Seven steps to getting your drivers and company ready for the Clearinghouse: 

Step One
Educate your staff on all the regulatory mandates detailed in the FMCSA Clearinghouse Final Rule (183 Pages) which became effective January 4, 2017, with a mandated Compliance Date of January 6, 2020, when the Clearinghouse database goes live. You can also learn, in a free 60-minute Recorded Webinar from Constangy Partners Tommy Eden and Jonathan Martin, a walk-through of all the new Regulations, the nine landmines they discovered in their study of the regulations and wise counsel on how to avoid each.

Step Two
Carefully select who will enroll your operation and direct your Clearinghouse compliance efforts. Because the Clearinghouse contains multiple prohibitions on the misuse of the information in the database, warnings about inaccurate reporting, mandates that all reports be truthful and accurate, criminal and civil penalties for violations, it is advised that all your designated Clearinghouse users (assistants) sign an access agreement to show good faith compliance.

Step Three
Prepare for those persons you are entrusting with your Clearinghouse access, a Clearinghouse Ready Compliance notebook. It should contain the following (found in the “Event Resources” tab for the Recorded Webinar):

Step Four
Decide now who will be your certified Medical Review Officer (MRO), Certified Third Party Administrator (C/TPA), Substance Abuse Professional (SAP), so you can select them when your entity enrolls in the Clearinghouse during October 2019. Learn from the FMCSA more about the various Employer, Driver and Service Agents Reporting Obligations. You should also plan a time of Clearinghouse Registration to purchase by credit card your “Query Plan Bundles” directly from the Clearinghouse at the rate of $1.25 per Driver Query, which can then be used by your C/TPA, or by your entity if you upload your own Annual Query Request. Learn more from the FMCSA Query Factsheet.

Step Five
You will need to secure a Clearinghouse Ready FMCSA Policy and Clearinghouse Ready Forms Toolkit. This Constangy intake questionnaire will help us better understand your compliance needs as fully discussed in the Constangy Recorded Webinar. Not updating your FMCSA CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES AND ALCOHOL USE AND TESTING POLICY to make it Clearinghouse Ready will put you at risk of DOT Fines of up to $11,000 per violation.

Step Six
Educate your supervisors and CDL Drivers on the Clearinghouse and encourage Drivers to sign up otherwise they will not have access to Clearinghouse reports on them.

Step Seven
After January 6, the Clearinghouse will contain information on all CDL Driver drug and alcohol program violations. These violations include:

  • Report for duty/remain on duty for safety-sensitive function with an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or greater or while using any drug specified in the regulations (Part 40), other than those prescribed by a licensed medical practitioner
  • Alcohol use while performing, or within four hours of performing, a safety-sensitive function
  • Alcohol use within eight hours of a post-accident alcohol test
  • Test positive for use of specified drugs
  • Refusing to submit to a required alcohol or drug test
  • Actual Knowledge by an Employer of Driver Substance Abuse

And lastly, and most importantly, encourage your CDL drivers to get help now if they think they have a substance abuse problem.

Tommy Eden is a partner working out of the Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete, LLP offices in Opelika, AL office and can be contacted at or 334-246-2901.