Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration Clearinghouse Requirement: What Employers and Drivers Should Know

June 11, 2019 | Antique Nguyen

The Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA) clearinghouse is being implemented as a central resource for commercial driver’s license (CDL) holder drug & alcohol testing violations. The new database is set to be implemented on Jan. 6, 2020.

Officials with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) promote that the ‘clearinghouse’ will improve highway safety by helping employers, the FMCSA, State Driver Licensing Agencies, and State law enforcement to quickly and efficiently identify drivers who are not legally permitted to operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) due to drug and alcohol program violations. This new, secure online database will provide access to real-time information, ensuring that drivers committing these violations complete the necessary steps before getting back behind the wheel or performing any other safety-sensitive function.

The clearinghouse was mandated by the “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act”. Registration for the clearinghouse is scheduled to begin this fall. By Jan. 6, 2020, “employers must conduct electronic queries within the clearinghouse and manual inquiries with previous employers to cover the preceding three years.” Registration for the Clearinghouse is free.


The Clearinghouse’s Impact

When referencing the FMCSA’s clearinghouse FactSheet, the new FMCSA clearinghouse will affect “all CDL drivers who operate CMVs on public roads, and their employers and service agents.”


This includes, but not limited to:

  • Interstate and intrastate motor carriers, including passenger carriers
  • School bus drivers
  • Construction equipment operators
  • Limousine drivers
  • Municipal vehicle drivers (e.g., waste management vehicles)
  • Federal and state agencies that employ drivers subject to FMCSA drug and alcohol use testing regulations (e.g., Department of Defense, public transit)


Information that will be reported and stored in the FMCSA clearinghouse includes:

  • Verified positive, adulterated, or substituted controlled substance test results
  • Reports of refusal to test (including no-shows)
  • Verified positive alcohol test results above .04
  • DUI citations while operating a Commercial Motor Vehicle
  • DUI conviction while operating a Commercial Motor Vehicle
  • Reports of actual knowledge of illicit alcohol or drug use
  • Negative return-to-duty test results
  • Records of compliance with follow-up testing requirements


For Employers

Employers of drivers operating CMVs that require a CDL or commercial driver’s permit (CLP) are required to implement and conduct a drug and alcohol use testing program that complies with FMCSA and DOT requirements. Employers will be required to query the Clearinghouse and request drug and alcohol testing histories from previous employers (going back 3 years) until January 6, 2023.  The clearinghouse query will then replace the need for an employer to request employment history, going forward.


The FMCSA clearinghouse brings the following new requirements for employers:

Pre-Employment Screening– Employers will be required to run detailed database queries in order to make sure applicants they are planning to hire for regulated positions do not have outstanding positive test results.

Annual Screening– Employers will be required to run limited database queries for current drivers at least once a year to determine whether any information exists in the Clearinghouse about those employees. If the limited query returns any results, a detailed database query will then be required.

Employers must also:

  • Register their company with the Clearinghouse, starting in the Fall of 2019
  • Be sure CDL information (number & state of origin) is in a driver file and easily accessible.
  • Implement changes to your hiring process that includes consent from drivers to do an initial detailed query and include the details for which an employer will report results to the clearinghouse.
  • Train your Designated Employer Representative (DER) and safety officers on the required documentation for reporting “actual knowledge” of drugs or alcohol use while operating a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV)

An employer who employs himself/herself as a driver must comply with FMCSA drug and alcohol requirements that apply to both employers and drivers.


Employers will also be required to revise their policies to reflect these new regulations:

Part 382 – Controlled substances And Alcohol Use and Testing

Subpart F – Alcohol Misuse and Controlled Substances Use Information, Training, and Referral

  • 382.601: Employer obligation to promulgate a policy on the misuse of alcohol and use of controlled substances.

(12) The requirement that the following personal information collected and maintained under this part shall be reported to the Clearinghouse:

(i) A verified positive, adulterated, or substituted drug test result;

(ii) An alcohol confirmation test with a concentration of 0.04 or higher;

(iii) A refusal to submit to any test required by subpart C of this part;

(iv) An employer’s report of actual knowledge, as defined at §382.107:

(A) On duty alcohol use pursuant to §382.205;

(B) Pre-duty alcohol use pursuant to §382.207;

(C) Alcohol use following an accident pursuant to §382.209; and

(D) Controlled substance use pursuant to §382.213;

(v) A substance abuse professional (SAP as defined in §40.3 of this title) report of the successful completion of the return-to-duty process;

(vi) A negative return-to-duty test; and

(vii) An employer’s report of completion of follow-up testing.

(c) Optional provision. The materials supplied to drivers may also include information on additional employer policies with respect to the use of alcohol or controlled substances, including any consequences for a driver found to have a specified alcohol or controlled substances level, that are based on the employer’s authority independent of this part. Any such additional policies or consequences must be clearly and obviously described as being based on independent authority.

(d) Certificate of receipt. Each employer shall ensure that each driver is required to sign a statement certifying that he or she has received a copy of these materials described in this section. Each employer shall maintain the signed certificate and may provide a copy of the certificate to the driver.

Employers can learn more about drug and alcohol rules and how they affect your business here: AccessEmployer Resources


For Drivers

Drug and alcohol testing regulations are designed to help keep our roadways safe. Failure to consent to a required test will result in a driver being prohibited from performing a safety-sensitive function, such as operating a CMV.

Drivers should be prepared to provide their CDL number when testing. Employers will require you to give consent whenever there is a need to run a full database query. Refusing to comply with consent will prohibit you from performing any FMCSA regulated safety-sensitive functions with that employer.

Learn about drug and alcohol regulations, including the types of tests required, when testing occurs, and drivers’ rights and responsibilities here: Access Driver Resources


More Information

The FMCSA’s Clearinghouse webpage provides information about the program, including a fact sheet, user roles card, a list of frequently asked questions, and a place where those interested can sign up to receive email updates about the regulation.

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