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July 17, 2023

Pre-Employment Clearinghouse Query Changes for 2023

In 2023, there were changes to the Clearinghouse pre-employment query system. Learn about changes and how they affect employers and drivers.

The pre-employment Clearinghouse query system underwent significant changes in March 2023. The changes were designed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to align the drug and alcohol Clearinghouse process with the evolving needs of employers.

The new system will replace the current manual process of tracking the prospective driver’s previous drug and alcohol data. The original process has been in place since the program began but is no longer suitable for today’s employers.

Under the new pre-employment query system, requesting data will be more automated and streamlined. This will reduce the time needed to complete pre-employment checks and the annual query requirement.

It will also offer more detailed information for prospective employers, which will allow you to make better hiring decisions.

What Are The New Pre-Employment Query Changes?

The objective of the pre-employment Clearinghouse changes is to prevent drivers from job hopping by tracking their drug and alcohol program history, as well as other drug and alcohol violation information.

It also makes it easier for prospective employers to check and verify such information.

Below are some of the changes when making inquiries on drug and alcohol program violations using the Clearinghouse system:

  • Starting January 6, 2023, there is now 3 years’ worth of data in the Clearinghouse, and manual inquiries are no longer needed.
  • Clearinghouse queries will now meet the drug and alcohol section of the employment verifications under CFR 391.23 (e).
  • Oral fluid testing will now be accepted starting June 1, 2023. Compared to urine testing, it’s more economical and can be done in full view of the medical officer. This greatly reduces the chances of cheating.
  • With this new process, employers are no longer required to contact a driver’s previous employers to check for drug and alcohol program-related concerns as part of the pre-employment check.
  • Generating reports on drug and alcohol program violations is now automated. It also contains a more detailed and wider range of information for the use of prospective employers.
  • Employers will also be notified of any changes in the Clearinghouse data of their drivers. This allows you to verify information related to your queries.

These changes have already been rolled out at the time of this writing, and these will make the Clearinghouse pre-employment process more efficient and reliable.

With the new system, you’ll be able to conduct background investigations more efficiently, make more informed decisions, and reduce the time taken to fill positions to ensure your business operates as usual.

What Do the New Drug and Alcohol Regulations Say?

The regulation states that employers are no longer required to conduct manual inquiries with previous employers for pre-employment verification.

Since there are now 3 years of data in the Clearinghouse, this will be the sole source of reports on drug and alcohol program violations, testing history, and others.

Streamlining this process helps you make quicker and more informed hiring decisions that can benefit your business.

Does the Annual Query Qualify?

There are no changes when making annual queries. Changes only apply to pre-employment queries.

The annual query process and requirements remain the same. This means employers need to conduct queries annually for every driver with a commercial driver’s license (CDL) they employ, as stated in CFR 382.701 (b).

However, employers must still ensure they comply with the DACH regulation when conducting an annual query. This means obtaining written or electronic consent from applicants before accessing their data and only using it for hiring decisions.

What Is the Owner-Operator/Employer’s Responsibility?

As the business owner or employer, you’re responsible for the following:

  • Hiring only CDL drivers registered to the Clearinghouse.
  • Conducting pre-employment Clearinghouse queries to prevent hiring any CDL drivers with drug and alcohol program violations.
  • Conducting annual queries on the CDL drivers under your employment to ensure drug and alcohol Clearinghouse information on these employees exists.
  • Retaining 3 years’ worth of updated data related to an employee’s drug and alcohol program and information on related query history.
  • Obtaining electronic consent from the prospective driver before making a Clearinghouse query.
  • Ensuring data from pre-employment queries are used only for decisions related to their hiring process.
  • Staying updated on guidelines or policy changes to make sure you hire the right drivers, meet compliance requirements, and avoid any penalties.

What Is My Driver’s Responsibility?

Drivers also have a responsibility in the Clearinghouse pre-employment process. If they want the opportunity to be employed, they should do the following:

  • Register to the FMSCA Clearinghouse as required for all CDL drivers.
  • Ensure that their Clearinghouse data is accurate.
  • Provide electronic consent for prospective employers or general consent for current employers to access their Clearinghouse data for pre-employment or annual query purposes.

What If I Haven’t Met This Requirement For All New Drivers?

If you haven’t met the drug and alcohol program pre-employment query requirements for all new drivers, you must rectify this as soon as possible.

Failure to meet your responsibilities as an employer can result in penalties from the USDOT.

The FMCSA has extended the compliance date to November 18, 2024, for State Driver Licensing Agencies (SDLAs) to transition to the new query process. However, it is still prudent to stay compliant as early as now.

By ensuring you keep your Clearinghouse data up to date and conducting pre-employment queries, you contribute to road safety by preventing drivers with drug and alcohol program violations from taking the wheel.

How Does This Affect 2023 Compliance for Drug and Alcohol Regulations?

The updates on the Clearinghouse query are only for the pre-employment process when hiring prospective drivers.

Employers must still adhere to the governing laws and regulations on drugs and alcohol. The Clearinghouse supports these laws and regulations by making it easier for employers and medical officers to conduct background checks to keep roads as safe as possible.

Employers are expected to comply with the relevant regulations and guidelines to reduce potential risks and penalties.

Do I Still Need To Contact My Driver’s Previous Employer For Drug and Alcohol Program Violations?

No. According to the updated regulations, the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse is the exclusive source for employers to identify potential drivers with drug and alcohol offenses. This rule went into effect on January 6, 2023.

However, employers are still required to gather other related information outlined in the DOT Regulation 49 CFR Part 391.23.

Stay Updated To Remain Compliant

The FMCSA will continue to review and update the rules on pre-employment inquiries as needed. It is best to take proactive steps to ensure you are in compliance with the updated regulations to avoid any potential penalties.

With DOT Compliance Group, we are dedicated to helping employers stay informed and compliant with the latest FMCSA rules. We provide you with the necessary tools and resources to make sure your business runs smoothly and efficiently.

By taking the necessary steps now, you can be sure that your business is compliant with the new Clearinghouse query changes for 2023.

Contact us today at https://www.dotcompliancegroup.com/ to get started!‌

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