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FMCSA Clearinghouse Consents: The Keys to Compliant Queries
Scott Mogensen
7 mins read

Make sure you have the proper consent to run your annual Clearinghouse queries before the end of 2023.

Since the official commencement of the FMCSA Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse in January 2020, the federal government has proved that it is taking drug and alcohol testing and reporting seriously.

FMCSA-regulated employers must run pre-employment and annual Clearinghouse queries on all current and prospective drivers. This is to ensure that they are not prohibited from operating commercial motor vehicles (CMVs)—or performing other safety-sensitive functions—due to unresolved drug or alcohol violations.

Because the information contained in the FMCSA Clearinghouse is sensitive and can impact employment, employers must receive consent from drivers before conducting queries of the system. If they don’t, they will be in violation and subject to steep fines.

Two Types of Clearinghouse Queries & What They Show

As of January 2020, DOT-regulated employers are required by law to be registered within the FMCSA Clearinghouse system and use it to run queries on drivers.

There are two different types of queries that these companies must run: limited and full. Both require driver consent, but the type of consent depends on the query.

Limited Clearinghouse Queries

Limited queries allow employers to determine if a driver’s Clearinghouse record contains any information about resolved or unresolved drug or alcohol program violations. However, they do not release any specific violation information contained in the driver’s Clearinghouse record.

Limited queries are run:

  • As annual checks on currently employed drivers.
  • As ad hoc/periodic checks on drivers.

Consent can be received outside of the Clearinghouse and via electronic or paper signature. The consent form must also specify a time range that allows the employer to run queries on the employee.

Remember, you can only run a query if a driver provides consent—and you must then retain the consent form in a secure location. If a driver refuses to consent, they must be pulled from duty until the required queries have been run.

Get Clearinghouse Compliant

If the Clearinghouse returns a record on a driver, you must:

  • Conduct a full query to release violation and/or return-to-duty details.
  • If this query is not conducted within 24 hours, the driver must be removed from operating a CMV or performing other safety-sensitive functions.

Full Clearinghouse Queries

In contrast to limited queries, full queries allow employers to see detailed information about any drug or alcohol program violations in a driver’s Clearinghouse record. They are run:

  • As pre-employment checks on prospective drivers.
  • As ad hoc/periodic checks on drivers.
  • When a limited query has returned records on a driver.

Consent must be received electronically within the Clearinghouse—for every full query performed for every individual driver. If consent is provided, a full query will be conducted, and full violations and/or return-to-duty details (if any) will be released.

If a driver refuses to consent, however, you will be notified, a query will not be run, and the driver will be prohibited from performing safety-sensitive functions until they've provided their consent to run the query.

Consequences for Non-Compliance

Because the FMCSA Clearinghouse is subject to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, there are consequences for running queries without consent.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) set a fine of $5,833 for each violation of any provisions in the Clearinghouse. This applies to all drivers, employers, and medical review officers.

For employers, that would be $5,833 per violation—so if you don’t receive consent for every driver as required, it could be costly. Bottom line: Follow the Clearinghouse query consent rules for all prospective and current drivers.

Background on the FMCSA Clearinghouse

The Clearinghouse is a secure online database providing real-time information about commercial driver’s license (CDL) and commercial learner’s permit (CLP) holders’ drug and alcohol program violations. It was enacted by Congress to improve highway safety by keeping drivers in violation off the roads and ensuring that they receive required evaluation and treatment before operating a CMV or performing other safety-sensitive functions.

It also makes it easier for employers to meet their pre-employment investigation and reporting obligations, as well as for the FMCSA to determine employer compliance with testing, investigation, and reporting requirements.

The Clearinghouse contains the following information:

  • Report for duty/remain on duty for safety-sensitive functions with alcohol concentrations of .04 or greater or while using any other drug other than those prescribed.
  • Alcohol or drug use while performing or within four hours of performing a safety-sensitive function.
  • Alcohol or drug use within eight hours of an accident or until the post-accident test is completed, whichever occurs first.
  • Positive tests for use of specified drugs.
  • Refusal to submit to a required alcohol or drug test.

Per federal law, both employers and commercial motor vehicle drivers must register in the FMCSA Clearinghouse. Consortia/third-party administrators (C/TPAs), medical review officers, and substance abuse professionals must also register. 

WATCH NOW:  Clearinghouse Queries Webinar

Keeping up with these requirements can be overwhelming, and the statistics are startling: More than 230,000 violations have been recorded in the Clearinghouse, and more than 70% of those drivers are still in prohibited status, according to the latest Clearinghouse Monthly Summary Report.

Partner with a Third-Party Administrator for Complete Clearinghouse Compliance

Foley offers comprehensive DOT Clearinghouse program management in our platform, Dash. Once you're enrolled, we'll collect timely consent from your drivers and run full, limited, and follow-up queries on your behalf. Hands-free Clearinghouse compliance is possible with Dash!

If you still need to run your annual Clearinghouse queries for 2023, reach out to one of our compliance consultants now. Our team will ensure you're all set before the clock strikes midnight on New Year's Eve.

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