What the New FMSCA Regulation Means For Drivers

by Pride Transport | Jan 08, 2020

 

In January 2020 the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is taking a huge step forward in its efforts to make the roads safer for CDL drivers as well as all drivers using the highways and byways of our great nation.

 

What’s happening

On January 6 a new rule will be going into effect. The rule states that FMCSA-regulated employers, medical review officers (MROs), substance abuse professionals (SAPs), consortia/third party administrators (c/TPAs) and other service agents will be required to report information related to violations of the drug and alcohol regulations in 49 CFR Part 382, Subpart B by current and prospective employees.

 

WHY IT'S HAPPENING

The purpose of the clearinghouse is to provide FMCSA and employers with the tools to identify drivers who are prohibited from driving a CMV, a commercial motor vehicle. They’re usually prohibited due to violations of the Department of Transportation (DOT) drug and alcohol rules. The new clearinghouse will ensure that drivers receive the required evaluation and treatment before operating a CMV on public roads.

The clearinghouse will also help employers identify drivers who commit a drug or alcohol program violation while working for one employer, but who fail to inform another employer of their trouble. This reporting of all infractions is required but oftentimes drivers slip under the radar. 

The FMCSA is quick to stress that this is not about punishment or making it difficult for drivers to do their jobs. The FMCSA, DOT and all carriers and employers want to keep the roads safe as well as getting drivers the help they need. If I driver has a drug or alcohol problem and isn’t getting help but rather moving from employer to employer, the problem could get worse. The new clearinghouse will allow officials and employers to help drivers with drug or alcohol problems, get them help and when they have completed treatment, get them safely back on the roads.

 

What CDL Drivers Need to Know

The rule requires motor carriers, medical review officers, third-party administrators, and substance abuse professionals to report information about drivers who:

  • Test positive for drugs or alcohol
  • Refuse drug and/or alcohol testing
  • Undergo the return-to-duty drug and alcohol rehabilitation process

Employers will be required to consult the database when hiring new drivers. They also must upload names of drivers in their employ who have failed drug or alcohol tests. Further, they will be required to check the database once a year regarding the status of their current drivers.

Records of drug and alcohol program violations will remain in the clearinghouse for five years, or until the driver completes the return-to-duty process, whichever is later.

 

Who Will be Impacted

Basically, this new rule is going to affect anyone who employs a CDL driver to operate a commercial vehicle (CMV) on public roads. This list includes:

  • Interstate motor carriers (carriers operating in and out of their home state)
  • Intrastate motor carriers (carriers operating only in their home state)
  • Federal, state and local governments
  • Civil organizations such as Disabled Veteran transport, boy/girl scouts, etc., etc.
  • Faith-based organizations

It should be noted that all CDL drivers who operate commercial motor vehicles subject to the CDL requirements on public roads in the US are subject to DOT drug and alcohol testing. This includes full-time, part-time, intermittent, backup and international drivers. 

These tests are required by law and refusal to submit to a drug or alcohol test means the driver’s name must be entered into the clearinghouse as someone who has refused drug and alcohol testing.

 

What Substances are Tested

The Department of Transportation (DOT) drug tests require laboratory testing for five classes of drugs:

  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Opiates; opium and codeine derivatives
  • Phencyclidine- PCP

Again, if a driver is found in violation of drug or alcohol ordinances, the driver’s name is added to the database and must complete a return-to-work rehabilitation program before they can return to driving and have their name removed from the database.

Before this ruling, drivers that were flagged or terminated after a positive drug or alcohol testing have been able to move from one carrier to another without detection. This made roads unsafe for all drivers.

 

Privacy Concerns

When a driver’s name appears on the list, he or she would be required to sign a consent form before details about the tests they have taken or refused can be shared with employers. Without that consent, anyone checking the database will only know the driver was tested, if they passed or failed and if they have completed the return-to-duty (RTD) process.  Details will not be released unless a driver signs consent forms.

Employers and drivers alike are advised to see the details of the clearinghouse by going here:

https://clearinghouse.fmcsa.dot.gov/

 

A Timeline

Here is a brief timeline of how and when the clearinghouse was set up.

December 5, 2016

The clearinghouse final rule implemented the congressional mandate to establish a drug and alcohol clearinghouse and identify the roles and responsibilities of those who will be required to use the clearinghouse.

October 2019

Registration begins. Users can establish an account that will allow access to the clearinghouse once it becomes operational on January 6, 2020.

November 2019

Query plans are made available for purchase. Registered employers can log into the clearinghouse to purchase their query plans. These plans are required and they allow employers to check on new or current employees. The plans and the pricing are available on the link above. These query plans may only be purchased from the FMCSA clearinghouse by registered employers. Since the queries will be a yearly requirement for employers to undertake on current drivers and all possible new employees, a query plan is required.

January 6, 2020

Clearinghouse implementation day. Mandatory use of the clearinghouse goes into effect. Employers must report certain drug and alcohol violations and can conduct electronic queries at the clearinghouse.

Manual inquiries with previous employers are still required to cover the preceding 3 years.

 

For Everyone's Safety

This secure online database is going to give employers, the FMCSA, state driver licensing agencies (SDLA) and state law enforcement personnel real-time information about commercial driver’s license (CDL) and commercial learner’s permit (CLP) holders drug and alcohol program violations. 

Covering records of violations of drug and alcohol rules and of test refusals will allow law enforcement and employers to keep troubled drivers off the roads and get those drivers the help they need so that they can get back to work.

Sometimes we all need a little help. Drug or alcohol addiction is a disease that can be treated. With help, a driver that has violated FMCSA rules can change their lives and get back to the work they love. This clearinghouse may seem truculent but the reasoning behind the clearinghouse is quite beneficent. 

Most carriers truly care about their drivers and the safety of the people they share the roads with. Although the rule does feel punitive, the FMCSA is actually offering help to those who need it and a clear path back to being behind the wheel and safely on the road again.

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