FMCSA Clearinghouse: Answers to frequently asked questions

March 31 2021
5 min read

The FMCSA Clearinghouse is an online database that contains information about violations of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)’s drug and alcohol testing program for Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) holders. It gives employers, the FMCSA, State Driver Licensing Agencies (SDLAs), and law enforcement personnel real-time information about commercial driver’s license (CDL) and commercial learner’s permit (CLP) holders’ drug and alcohol program violations. The Clearinghouse was implemented on January 6, 2020, and its requirements are specified in 49 CFR 382, subpart G§§382.701—382.727.

What information does the Clearinghouse contain?

The Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse contains records of violations of drug and alcohol prohibitions in 49 CFR Part 382, Subpart B, including positive drug or alcohol test results and test refusals. Additionally, when a driver completes the return-to-duty (RTD) process and follow-up testing plan, this information is also recorded in the Clearinghouse.

It is mandated by the MAP–21 legislation, a comprehensive federal funding and authorization act, encompassing federal aid for highways and highway and transit safety programs.

How does the Clearinghouse improve highway safety?

The objective of the Clearinghouse is to improve roadway safety by identifying commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers who have committed drug and alcohol violations that render them ineligible to operate a CMV. Specifically, information maintained in the Clearinghouse will ensure that drivers who commit a drug or alcohol violation while working for another employer, or who attempt to find work with another employer, do not perform safety-sensitive functions until completing the return-to-duty process.

Who does the Clearinghouse affect?

All CDL drivers who operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) on public roads and their employers and service agents are subject to the Clearinghouse. This includes:

  • 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 other organizations that employ drivers subject to FMCSA drug and alcohol testing regulations (e.g., Department of Defense, municipalities, school districts)

The FMCSA website provides information on the registration process and other details about Clearinghouse implementation.

What are the Clearinghouse Requirements?

The Clearinghouse requires employers, Medical Review Officers (MROs), Substance Abuse Professionals (SAPs), and consortia/Third-party Administrators (TPAs) to report information on violations of FMCSA drug and alcohol testing regulations by CDL drivers. It also requires employers and state licensing agencies to query the Clearinghouse in specific circumstances.

What are the Clearinghouse Reporting Requirements?

All reporting is done by CDL driver name, CDL number with state of issuance, and must be accomplished within 1-3 business days, depending on the reporting entity.  

Reporting requirements are summarized below by entity and reporting requirements.

For prospective/current employers or C/TPA of CDL driver:

  • An alcohol confirmation test with a concentration of 0.04 or higher. 
  • Refusal to test (alcohol) as specified in 49 CFR 40.261.
  • Refusal to test (drug) not requiring a determination by the MRO as specified in 49 CFR 40.191.
  • Actual knowledge, as defined in 49 CFR 382.107, that a driver has used alcohol on duty, used alcohol within four hours of coming on duty, used alcohol prior to post-accident testing, or has used a controlled substance.
  • Negative return-to-duty test results (drug and alcohol testing, as applicable).
  • Completion of follow-up testing.

For MRO:

  • Verified positive, adulterated, or substituted drug test result.
  • Refusal to test (drug) requiring a determination by the MRO as specified in 49 CFR 40.191

For SAP:

  • Identification of driver and date the initial assessment was initiated.
  • Successful completion of treatment and/or education and the determination of eligibility for return-to-duty.

What are the Clearinghouse Query Requirements?

Clearinghouse queries are required for employers under the following circumstances:

  • For current and prospective drivers’ drug and alcohol violations before permitting divers to operate a CMV.
  • Annually for each driver employed.

FMCSA Clearinghouse queries are required for State DL agencies under the following circumstances:

  • Whenever a CDL is issued, renewed, transferred, or upgraded.

What are the Clearinghouse Query Requirements for employers?

Driver consent is required for employers to conduct full queries of a driver’s records.

  • Driver consent will be accomplished online as a digital consent form via the Clearinghouse.
  • The consent is employer specific and time limited.
  • Employers may conduct a limited query to meet the annual query requirement and driver consent can be digital or paper, obtained by the employer and can be exercised for multiple years.
  • The limited query does not provide specific drug/alcohol violation information from the driver’s record; it simply indicates there is information reported on the driver.
  • If the limited query indicates there is violation information available, the employer must have a specific driver consent executed and then a full query must be requested the driver’s record with 24 hours.

Additionally, prior to Jan 6, 2023, when hiring CDL drivers employers will be required to query the Clearinghouse and continue to request drug and alcohol testing histories from previous employers as required in 49 CFR §§40.25, 382.413 and 391.23.

What is a Full and Partial Query?

Full Query – Used for all NEW hires.

A Full Query allows the employer to see detailed information about any drug and alcohol program violations in the driver’s Clearinghouse record. A full query MUST be run for pre-employment purposes when hiring any driver into a safety sensitive position.

The authorization for a Full Query is managed through the Clearinghouse. The request for the Query is submitted to the Clearinghouse, in turn the Clearinghouse submits a request to the driver to provide consent before the Query can be ran. If the driver has not previously registered, the Clearinghouse will mail out notification to the driver, the turnaround time is anticipated to be 10 – 14 days for the mailed notice to arrive. Once consent is provided by the driver the results are released to the requester.

Limited Query – Used for the Required Annual Query ONLY.

The employer can choose to run a Full or Limited Query for the Annual review. Annual Queries must be completed at least once per year. The Limited Query consent is managed by the employer (not the Clearinghouse) and the Limited Query service allows an employer to determine if an individual driver’s Clearinghouse record has any information about resolved or unresolved drug and alcohol program violations but does not release any specific violation information contained in the driver’s Clearinghouse record.

Employers must ensure their drug and alcohol testing policies and programs include basic information about the Clearinghouse and provide notice to drivers of the reporting and query requirements.

Navigating the ever-changing landscape of CDL employment can be challenging. Orange Tree can help simplify the process for FMCSA verifications. Schedule a consultation to learn how we are helping to make the process easier for employers and their candidates.

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