New Clearinghouse Rule Now in Effect: What it Means for Your Drivers
On November 8, 2021, the second Clearinghouse rule went into effect. The final ruling addresses state driver’s licensing agencies and their new requirement to use data in the Clearinghouse prior to issuing or renewing a driver’s CDL or CLP.
The rule was published on October 7 and went into effect on November 8. However, the FMCSA has given some leeway, allowing states to start enforcing the rule no later than November 18, 2024. If you employ truck drivers, it’s crucial for you to familiarize yourself with this rule. The sooner you understand the implications, the easier it will be to stay compliant. Here’s what you should know!
The New FMCSA Clearinghouse Rule Explained
The new rule essentially cracks down even harder on drivers with one or more drug or alcohol violations in their past. States will no longer be allowed to issue, renew, or upgrade learner’s permits or commercial driver’s license to such drivers. Such CMV operators will also have their CLP or CDL privilege stripped from their licenses until they’ve undergone the required return-to-duty process and testing.
The goal of the new rule is to make the roadways as safe as possible by removing drivers with drug and alcohol violations. It will allow police to quickly spot prohibited drivers when running a license check during a traffic stop. This is the first time that states will have access to information on drug and alcohol violators.
A Quick History of the Clearinghouse
The DOT established the Clearinghouse to prevent drivers with drug and alcohol violations from operating commercial vehicles. The database has been around for less than two years, becoming active in January 2020. Not only does the Clearinghouse require employers to run a full query before they hire a new driver but it also requires them to run a limited query on their drivers each year. With the new rules, the state must also run a query before they issue or renew a driver’s CDL.
All your truck drivers who operate heavy-duty vehicles must submit to drug and alcohol tests. If they fail any of these tests or refuse to take them, you’ll have to report the violation to the Clearinghouse.
This information is stored in the Clearinghouse for five years or after the driver has completed the return-to-duty process, whichever one comes later.
How Will the Rule Impact You?
As an employer, there are pros and cons to the new FMCSA rule. Keeping impaired drivers and especially drivers of commercial motor vehicles off the roadways is obviously good for safety reasons. However, the biggest downside to the rule is that it may take even more drivers off the road. This will only increase the current talent shortage the industry has been experiencing.
It’s crucial that as an employer you get in the habit of running FMCSA Clearinghouse queries on every driver to verify that they are legally able to drive with the new rule. If you do have a driver with a Clearinghouse violation, their CDL be suspended once the rule goes into effect. The last thing you want is for a driver whose CDL is suspended to be pulled over for an inspection or violation. To decrease the likelihood of this happening, you may want to run queries on your drivers more frequently than once a year just to make sure no violations come up.
At Foley, we recommend running a limited query on each driver at least quarterly to ensure you’re made aware of violations that could lead to CDL suspensions and downgrades before the driver is pulled over for inspection (and you’re hit with hefty fines).
For more information on how we can help keep you Clearinghouse compliant, get in touch today!