Improving Your Company's Compliance With DOT/FMCSA.
The FMCSA Clearinghouse is becoming more familiar to most, but we are seeing some companies that have not yet registered their company in the Clearinghouse. Remember that every company that employees CDL drivers must be registered in the FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse. Most importantly, every driver must be checked by a limited query before 01/06/2021. If there is indication that something exists in the Clearinghouse during an annual limited query, the company must run a full query.
All CDL drivers hired after January 6, 2020 should have already had a full query submitted through the clearinghouse. Also remember the company must have written authorization from the driver to conduct the annual limited query. No written authorization is required to check the Clearinghouse for a full query as the driver will be notified and must give his permission to allow the query.
The regulations state a driver does not have to have a Clearinghouse account, but it sure is easier on everyone if he does. If a driver creates their own account, it makes it so much easier for them to get notified that that they have been queried.
The driver gets an email almost as soon as you click the query button, if they have an account they can go online and grant that permission for the full query. They can register for an account and request query notifications be mailed to them but that can take up to 7 days. If they do not have a Clearinghouse account, their query will be mailed to the address on their driver license. That too will take unnecessary time. If a driver has not changed the address on their driver license, they will probably never get a notice that they have has been queried.
Remember a new driver to your company cannot drive a CMV requiring a CDL until their full query is complete. If a driver never gets the notification or does not grant permission for the full query, they cannot drive.
One problem we have been noticing is that companies need to have an FMCSA Portal account so that it can be linked to the Clearinghouse web page. There are a couple of tricks in opening a portal account.
Once it is opened you must know how to navigate to the correct place so that you can assign permission to be the administrator of your Clearinghouse account. You name the administrator in the clearinghouse and a clearinghouse user as well. Once you get past the portal difficulties the Clearinghouse is easy to navigate.
Remember each year the company must run a limited clearinghouse query on all your drivers. You have until January 6, 2021 to run all drivers in your company that hold a CDL and drive a CMV. Also remember in order to run a limited query you must have the driver’s written permission on file. We place them into the driver qualification file.
If a limited query comes back showing that there is something on the driver’s clearinghouse record, you must then run a full query within 24 hours. Once you run the full query the driver needs to immediately check his email for a message from the FMCSA Clearinghouse notifying the driver of the query. The driver needs to grant permission to allow the clearinghouse to release the information in the data base.
If they driver does not grant permission for the full query they must not drive until they access their email and give permission. Again, if he does not have a clearinghouse account the notification will come in the US Mail.
You can bulk upload your drivers for the annual limited query using the form found on the clearinghouse web site. You will be able to download the result into an excel spreadsheet.
Overall, the FMCSA Clearinghouse will assist in finding drivers that have tested positive or refused testing at other motor carriers. It will help in that drivers will no longer fall through the cracks. Before the activation of the clearinghouse and up until January 3, 2023 we must rely on prior employers to honestly report during a driver investigation that a driver tested positive.
The clearinghouse is a great tool and a long time coming.