Canadian carriers need to prepare for U.S. Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse

EDMONTON, Alta. – Canadian carriers operating south of the border need to be ready for the U.S. Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse program.

Chris Wilkinson, program consultant for DriverCheck, said though the new regulation is being implemented in the U.S., carriers and drivers operating cross-border will be impacted.

In a nutshell, the Clearinghouse will provide access to information about drivers with violations on their record, and ensure they complete the necessary steps before getting back behind the wheel or performing any safety-sensitive functions in the workplace.

The Clearinghouse is an online database containing commercial drivers’ drug and alcohol violations, as well as return-to-work documentation. Employers will be required to report and query information in the database starting Jan. 6, 2020 when looking to hire new drivers. In 2023, once three years of violation data has been accumulated, employers will no longer be required to request driver information from previous employers, with the exception of those who have not completed all follow-up tests.

Wilkinson said the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recognized a gap in driver oversight back in 1999 with drivers not reporting infractions when job-hopping. The Clearinghouse is intended to improve compliance when it comes to drug and alcohol use and testing requirements.

“It’s a tracking tool, it’s a discovery tool, and it’s going to benefit you in the long run,” Wilkinson said during the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada’s Western Educational Seminar today in Edmonton, Alta.

Employers, third-party administrators (TPA), substance abuse professionals (SAP), and medical review officers (MRO) will all be responsible for reporting driver information to the Clearinghouse.

MROs must report positive, adulterated, or substituted drug test results within two business days. Employers must report positive alcohol, knowledge violations, and negative return-to-work tests, and successful completion of all follow-up tests. SAPs are required to submit driver IDs and the date of initial assessment, and the driver’s successful completion of treatment and eligibility for return-to-work. And TPAs must report as if they were the employer.

The Clearinghouse requires all positive drug and alcohol results, substituted and adulterated tests, refusals, negative return-to-work tests, knowledge violations, date of initial assessment, follow-up test completion, and successful completion of treatment.

Owner-operators must use a TPA to report to the Clearinghouse.

Employers, third-party administrators, drivers, state authorities, the National Transportation Board, and FMCSA will all have access to the Clearinghouse.

Drivers will be notified by FMCSA when information about them is revised, entered, or removed, and when it is released to an employer.

Not all drivers will need to register with the Clearinghouse. Those who remain with one employer will not be required to register, but any driver seeking employment or wanting to view their record will need to sign up.

Driver profiles will include a limited as well as full query. Limited queries will indicate if a red flag is attached to a driver’s profile and need only general consent from the driver to be accessed, but will require specific consent by the driver for employers to view their full query.

“As soon as you get that flag, you have 24 hours to get that full consent,” said Wilkinson.

To prepare for the Clearinghouse, Wilkinson said employers should update their drug and alcohol policy, prepare internal and external reporting protocols, consent forms, and training for employees. Carriers should also register on the Clearinghouse, assign staff to work in the Clearinghouse, and purchase a querying plan in the Clearinghouse.

Pending the success of the Clearinghouse, the FMCSA may expand the program to include additional agencies.

Chris Wilkinson DriverCheck PMTC
Chris Wilkinson.

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A university graduate with a degree in English, I have worked in the media and trucking industries as a writer, editor, and now as western bureau chief of Today's Trucking and I have several years of management experience in journalism, as well as hospitality, but am first and foremost a writer, both professionally and in my personal life, having completed two fiction novels.

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