NASHVILLE—Despite website glitches, about two-thirds of those attempting to register with the new Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse have been successful since the program went online on Jan. 6, said Loretta Bittner, chief of the Passenger Carrier Safety Division of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
“It went off pretty well, when you think of how many entities are registering and how many entities this rule touches,” she said during a presentation at Motorcoach EXPO. “I’ve heard talk that one-third of people registering were having problems. I would like to turn that around—that means two-thirds were doing okay and doing what they needed to do.”
The clearinghouse is a secure online database that will provide employers, state driver licensing agencies and FMCSA with up-to-date information on driver drug and alcohol violations. It also will be used by medical review officers, substance abuse professionals and third-party administrators working on behalf of employers.
The database is intended to make it easier for employers to screen prospective drivers and make it more difficult for drivers to conceal drug and alcohol violations from current or prospective employers.
Subject to the clearinghouse are drivers who hold a CDL (commercial driver’s license) or CLP (commercial learner’s permit).
“If you have drivers who are not required to have a CDL, they are not involved in this. There has been a little confusion on that,” Bittner said.
Employers must conduct annual queries on their current drivers, she said, and may conduct those at their own pace. “That is up to you, but you have to have it done by January 5, 2021.”
“I think this rule will be a positive,” Bittner said. “For years I have heard carriers ask, ‘Why can the guy who refused a drug test at my place go down the road and get hired by somebody else?’ This, hopefully, is the solution to that issue. It will help you feel better about the drivers you are hiring and the drivers that leave you and try to drive for someone else.”
Bittner reminded employers that they must query the clearinghouse as well as previous employers for three more years when screening a new driver.
“The reason is, there was nothing in the database on January 6. It was empty. We have to have three years of data to make it usable for only electronic inquiries. On January 6, 2023, we will have three years of data in the clearinghouse and you will not have to do the manual inquiries. That will make everybody happy.”