Logging some 8,000 violations in its first month of implementation, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is off to a fast start in bringing much-need transparency into drivers’ operating records to assure public safety and reduce trucking company risk. The Clearinghouse ends a long-existing gap in the ability of fleet hiring managers to access driver violation records from a reliable nationwide database.
According to the FMCSA, the purpose of the Clearinghouse (as mandated by section 32402 of MAP-21), is to maintain records of all drug and alcohol program violations in a central repository. The repository comes with a mandate that requires employers to query the system to determine whether current or prospective employees have drug or alcohol violations that prohibit them from performing safety-sensitive functions covered by the FMCSA and U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) drug and alcohol testing regulations.
A necessary tool says FMCSA
The agency says this will give it, human resources and hiring managers the necessary tools to identify drivers prohibited from operating commercial vehicles, while assuring these drivers receive human-centered evaluation and treatment before resuming safety-sensitive functions.
FMCSA’s position is clear - “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.”
The Clearinghouse addresses a situation where drivers could conceal their drug and alcohol violations merely by moving on to the next job or the next jurisdiction. Now, drug and alcohol violation records maintained in the Clearinghouse “follow” drivers regardless of how many times he or she changes employers, seeks employment or applies for a CDL in a different state. FMCSA says the Clearinghouse will be administered and maintained in strict compliance with all applicable federal security standards. Similarly, the agency will comply with the consent requirements of the Privacy Act prior to releasing any driver's Clearinghouse record to a potential employer.
Doing what it is intended to do
According to the FMCSA, 650,000 drivers are registered, a figure that reveals just how many operators may have been operating under the radar. Dan Horvath, Vice President of Safety Policy for American Trucking Associations was quoted recently, noting to trade media that the, “Clearinghouse is doing what it is meant to do,” and that is closing a long-time loophole drivers were taking advantage of for years to avoid the consequences of their drug and alcohol violations.
An FMCSA announcement explains the Clearinghouse contains only violations that occurred on or after January 6, 2020. If a driver’s violation occurred prior to that date and was in the return-to-duty process when the Clearinghouse was implemented, the violation, and any related return-to-duty activity, will not be entered into the Clearinghouse.
This online database is intended to help keep roads safer for all drivers by identifying, in real time, drivers prohibited from performing safety-sensitive functions, and that includes operating commercial motor vehicles illegally due to drug and alcohol program violations. As it stands, the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse is now fully operational, and mandatory use is now in effect.
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Sources: FMCSA and Transport Topics