Fleets are now required to make queries for new truck driver hires in the CDL Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse, says the U.S. DOT, who this week updated the Clearinghouse website to note that the site is “fully operational” and that the leeway period granted while the site experienced technical issues has ended.
In its first weeks after going live Jan. 6, a swell of new users caused the site to continually crash, causing connectivity issues for fleets and drivers when trying to register or trying to make the required queries.
Because of these issues, DOT posted a notice on the site stating that fleets were allowed to continue the driver hiring process without performing queries if they experienced technical issues with the website.
That’s no longer the case, according to an update posted this week, which states that “mandatory use is now in effect.”
“For the most part, it seems we are past the troubles that originally plagued the rollout,” says David Heller, vice president of government affairs for the Truckload Carriers Association. Heller says he’s been fielding calls from TCA’s fleet members about the Clearinghouse site’s functionality issues. For now, he says, “my phone has stopped ringing” over Clearinghouse complaints.
Heller says he has heard concern from some fleets about whether they’ll be held responsible for queries not submitted during the site’s downtime.
The issue hasn’t been addressed yet by FMCSA, says Luke Kibby, of drug consortium Glostone Trucking Solutions (formerly known as CleanFleet). “All of January is in a gray area,” says Kibby, “for how auditors will approach Clearinghouse compliance.”
Also still lingering, says Kibby, are issues with FMCSA’s carrier registration portal website — a separate system from the Clearinghouse website, but one that carriers must access to create a Clearinghouse account and to perform queries.
“Eventually, all employer accounts [in the Clearinghouse] will need to connect to the FMCSA portal, and we don’t know what the process will look like,” he says. The Clearinghouse website still crashes when fleets try to connect their Clearinghouse account to the FMCSA portal.
The registration process in the Clearinghouse otherwise appears to be operating smoothly, says Kibby, and fleets are able to purchase queries, run queries of new driver hires and drivers are able to provide consent (a required step) for fleets to run a query on them. Likewise, any positive drug tests can be added to the Clearinghouse by medical review officers, he says, and the Clearinghouse system is connecting with the CDL Information System that ties information in the Clearinghouse to drivers’ CDL numbers.
In addition to new driver hires, fleets must also query the database once a year for existing drivers. Read more on the Clearinghouse and fleet requirements at the link below.