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The Most Common DOT Clearinghouse Violation – and How to Avoid it
Mariah Barr
7 mins read

How do you manage DOT Clearinghouse pre-employment queries and driver qualification files?

The DOT Clearinghouse hasn’t been the most straightforward safety initiative for carriers since it went into effect back in January 2020. But there’s one area of the regulation that’s proving to be particularly problematic, and it's resulting in more violations than any other aspect of the Clearinghouse.

We’re talking about the pre-employment query requirement. So far in 2023, there have been 4,228 violations of this key Clearinghouse requirement. That's already surpassed the total number in 2022 (and by quite a lot . . . over 1000 and counting).

Below, we're going to discuss . . .

  • A quick refresher on when you need to run full pre-employment Clearinghouse queries
  • Why a driver's written consent isn't enough to run these queries
  • Ways to keep the pre-employment process on track (even with the extra steps required by the DOT Clearinghouse)
  • How Foley offers the most comprehensive DOT compliance services available and will make your work life easier

As a refresher, the regulation states that motor carriers must run a full pre-employment Clearinghouse query on each new safety-sensitive driver they employ. Carriers are required to get the results of the query and verify that the driver doesn’t have any violations in the Clearinghouse prior to allowing them to operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) for their company.

WATCH NOW:  Clearinghouse Queries Webinar

If you don’t have this full query on file for each new driver, the consequences can be severe – comparable to putting a driver behind the wheel before you have a negative drug test result on file. Both are considered acute violations by the FMCSA, which can quickly put you on the dangerous path toward a conditional safety rating.

This full query will reveal any information about the driver’s drug and/or alcohol violations that have occurred since the DOT Clearinghouse went into effect.

Remember, Electronic Consent is Required for Full Clearinghouse Queries

Unlike limited Clearinghouse queries that drivers can consent to with a written signature, drivers are required to provide electronic consent in the DOT Clearinghouse each time a motor carrier intends to run a full query of their record, as personal information is revealed.

This can create a roadblock, since it means the driver must have a Clearinghouse account set up in advance. If they don’t have an account yet – or experience any complications during the registration process that cause delays – this can have a significant impact on getting that driver hired and onboarded quickly. And in some cases, it can bring the process to a screeching halt.

Need a reminder of the difference between limited and full Clearinghouse queries? This Foley article will clear things up: DOT Clearinghouse Consents: What You Need to Know

How to Keep the Pre-Employment Process Moving

You want to do everything you can to avoid wasting your valuable time onboarding a driver whose Clearinghouse record ultimately shows that they are prohibited from operating a CMV due to DOT drug and alcohol program violations.

Conducting the pre-employment Clearinghouse query early on in your pre-hire process – along with looking at the driver’s initial motor vehicle report – can save you the headache of going back to the drawing board (or job board, for that matter) to find a qualified driver who hopefully doesn’t have any Clearinghouse violations.

By letting prospective hires know you need to run a pre-employment Clearinghouse query on them, you’re getting ahead in the following ways:

1.  Giving the driver time to register in the Clearinghouse (if they haven’t already)
2.  Putting the process of getting their electronic consent in motion
3.  Finding out if the driver has violations that will prevent them from operating a CMV for your company

If the driver does not have a Clearinghouse record, meaning they do not have any reported DOT drug or alcohol violations, you can then ask them to sign a blanket consent form.

A completed blanket consent form will allow you to run the required annual limited queries on the driver for the duration of their employment. You’ll need to keep this document with your employee’s driver qualification file in case it needs to be provided during a compliance audit.

Are you getting compliant consent  for your Clearinghouse queries?

How to Create a Better Pre-Employment Clearinghouse Query Process

First, go back and verify that you have that full, pre-employment query on file for every driver you’ve hired since the regulation went into effect.

If, for some reason, you don’t have the query on file, run it on all your employees who operate CMVs now. While we can’t guarantee that it will protect you from a violation, recognizing your mistake, and having proof that you took steps to correct it, can go a long way in showing that you’re working hard to be a safe motor carrier and you take your compliance requirements seriously.

Next, include that pre-employment Clearinghouse query in your pre-hire process immediately. If you run into issues with drivers who don’t know how to complete the registration process, Foley can help them (and you!) through it.

Lastly, consider a fully automated compliance solution that checks all the boxes when it comes to your Clearinghouse requirements.

Ready to make Clearinghouse queries the least of your compliance worries? Talk to a Foley compliance expert now to learn more, or fill out the form below to request a FREE DOT compliance software demo.

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