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DOT Clearinghouse Drug Violations Up 10% in 2021
Scott Mogensen
6 mins read

We now have two full years of drug testing violation data in the DOT Clearinghouse. With the latest report published by the FMCSA last month, we’re able to see the first year-over-year comparison of violations since the Clearinghouse went into effect in January 2020.

The big news? Both drug and alcohol violations increased in 2021. In fact, there was a 10% increase in drug violations last year -most of which resulted from positive drug test results.

Of the 58,215 drug violations reported last year, 49,019 were due to a positive drug test result. Another 8,152 resulted from drug test refusals.

It’s probably no surprise that marijuana use topped the list for substances identified in positive drug tests, accounting for 55% of all positive test results. This was followed by cocaine and methamphetamine, both of which trailed behind by a wide margin.

Related Article: The Rising Use of Marijuana

These numbers are only expected to continue to rise, exacerbated, in part, by the fact that more and more states are legalizing marijuana for medicinal and recreational use (marijuana continues to be by far the #1 drug leading to violations).

DOT Clearinghouse Violation Data 2021
Source: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

Perhaps even more surprising, is that over 80,000 of these drivers are still in prohibited status – and most haven’t yet started the return-to-duty process yet. This means that they can’t legally operate a CDL and will be put out of service if they are pulled over for inspection. Now that state driver license agencies are required to check the Clearinghouse for violations, these drivers will also run into trouble when getting or renewing a CDL.

The Importance of Running Regular Queries

All FMCSA-regulated employers must run a full query on all new CDL drivers, as well as a  limited query on these drivers annually (the second deadline just passed). If you haven’t run a query on your drivers yet this year, you must do so immediately.

But with so many drivers in prohibited status – a number that grows each month – is running a single limited query on each driver annually enough?

At Foley, we don’t think so – and recommend employers run a limited query on all CDL drivers on at least a quarterly basis to ensure that none of your drivers have received a DOT drug or alcohol violation. With so many drivers working for multiple carriers, it would be very easy for a driver to test positive for drug use during a random test for another employer without you finding out about it.

Before you establish a program for running regular DOT Clearinghouse queries on your drivers, there are a few important steps you’ll want to take care of first:

Are You Running Compliant Clearinghouse Queries? Find Out in Our FREE Webinar! 

#1 You and All Drivers Must Have an Account

Although the DOT Clearinghouse has been in effect for over two years, there are still many employers and CDL drivers who haven’t registered yet.

If you or your drivers haven’t set up an account, it’s important that you do so immediately. For drivers, this will allow them to review their Clearinghouse record and ensure there aren’t any errors. It will also prevent delays should you need to follow-up with a full query.

Clearinghouse Enforcement Has Begun. Are You Ready?

#2: You Must Have Consent

A Clearinghouse query is a type of background check, and is therefore protected by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and Privacy Act. Before you can run a query, you must get consent from your drivers.

A limited query requires only a blanket consent form, which can be kept on file for the duration of their employment. This form will enable you to run limited queries throughout your drivers’ employment without needing further permissions.

In the event you need to run a full query, you’ll be required to get consent on an individual basis in the Clearinghouse. A driver will need a Clearinghouse account to provide consent (which is why it’s so important that they set one up now).

Once you have consent on file, you can go ahead and run the limited query. As long as the query shows that the driver has no violations in the Clearinghouse, your requirement is met – you can go ahead and file both the consent form and the query in the driver’s file. If there is a “hit” on a driver’s record, you’ll need to complete a full query within 24 hours or the driver will need to be removed from duty.

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