FMCSA Clearinghouse Rule: What Employers with Commercial Drivers Must Know in 2020

December 17, 2019 | Shannon Shoemaker

We are less than one month away from the most significant changes in the Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations recent in years. The Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA) Clearinghouse rule, also known as the Commercial Driver’s License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse (“Clearinghouse”)  – 49 CFR Part 382, subpart G[1], will go into effect on January 6, 2020.

The primary role of the new Clearinghouse is increased safety. The implementation of the Clearinghouse database will, over time, close a dangerous loophole that has been exploited since the 1990s. Officials with the 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 FMCSA Clearinghouse brings the following new requirements for employers:


Get Registered – FMCSA regulated employers must register their company with the Clearinghouse, starting right now. The database will pull your company information from other FMCSA systems using your USDOT Number. Registration is free.

Designate your C/TPA – Once registration is complete employers, that work with one or more consortia/third-party administrator(s) (C/TPAs), will be required to designate them in the Clearinghouse before they are able to access the Clearinghouse database on the employer’s behalf. Employers will also be able to invite “assistants” or other employees who will access the Clearinghouse on the company’s behalf, inviting them to register as part of the company or organization.

Purchase a Query Plan – Employers will pay a fee when querying the Clearinghouse for current and prospective employees’ drug and alcohol program violations. Learn about the pricing options and select the plan that works best for your business needs. Employers can only purchase queries from the FMCSA Clearinghouse and not from C/TPAs or other service providers.

Get Consent – 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. All queries will require driver consent.

Pre-Employment Screening – As previously mentioned, the current DOT requirements for conducting previous employment checks for FMCSA regulated drivers required employers to manually inquire with all past employers (over the last three years). Past employers are required to report information pertaining to any drug and alcohol testing violations – Including:

    1. Alcohol test results with a concentration of .04 or greater.
    2. Positive substance abuse test results and chain of custody and control form.
    3. Any documents sent by the Medical Review Officer (MRO).
    4. Documents related to any refusal to comply with drug and alcohol testing requirements.
    5. Documents provided by the driver disputing any test results.
    6. Any documents generated in connection with verifications of prior employers’ drug and alcohol test results.


Employers will now be required to run detailed pre-employment database queries in order to make sure applicants they are planning to hire for regulated positions do not have outstanding positive test results. Employers will be required to conduct the manual pre-employment inquiries and database queries for the next three years (until January 6, 2023). There forward, the manual inquiry process can be eliminated as only the database queries will be required.

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. All queries will require driver consent.

Report Violations – Beginning January 6, 2020, employers will be required to report drug and alcohol violations to the Clearinghouse, including alcohol test results with a concentration of .04 or greater, refusals to take a drug or alcohol test, and any actual knowledge of a violation. Employers will also report negative return-to-duty (RTD) test results and the successful completion of a driver’s follow-up testing plan. The information above must be reported by the close of the third business day after the employer is informed.

Employers must also:

    • Notify their drivers of the new Clearinghouse requirements.
    • Be sure CDL information (number & state of origin) is in a driver file and easily accessible.
    • 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).
    • Revise their policies to reflect these new regulations.


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