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On Oct. 1, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced that registration for the Commercial Driver’s License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse was officially open. This came three months prior to the Jan. 6, 2020 deadline, when Clearinghouse compliance will become mandatory across the trucking industry.

The Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse is a database that aims to end job-hopping by commercial drivers who fail drug and alcohol tests. The database will collect information on drug and alcohol violations and will not include crashes, inspections or information regarding other agencies. It hopes to address the problem of drivers failing drug or alcohol tests for their employers then moving on to another position in a company that doesn’t know about the failed test. Barbara Baker, an FMCSA technical expert, says that the FMCSA “want[s] to stop those drivers from being able to do that… [and] to make sure they get whatever treatment they need to actually get cleaned up, get totally rehabilitated.”

The FMCSA, commercial driver employers, state licensing agencies and law enforcement personnel will have access to up-to-date information about commercial truckers’ drug-and-alcohol violations that take place starting on Jan. 6. On top of that, employers will be required to use the Clearinghouse to document drivers who fail or refuse to take U.S. Department of Transportation drug tests. They must also use the Clearinghouse as part of their pre-employment driver investigation processes.

Due to concerns regarding data privacy caused by a FMCSA technical glitch, the compliance deadline for some requirements has been delayed until Jan. 6, 2023. More specifically, the FMCSA will extend the deadline for state driver licensing agencies (SDLA) by the three years to address the data privacy concerns that have arisen. State driver licensing agencies will play a key role in ensuring the Clearinghouse is effective, though, by keeping drivers who pose a safety risk off the roads.

What this means is that the three-year delay could cause the Clearinghouse to be significantly less effective in improving public safety than anticipated. According to David Osiecki, President and CEO of Scopelitis Transportation Consulting, “SDLAs are a major cog in this wheel because they’re responsible for renewing or upgrading commercial driver’s licenses. When they’re taken out of the process, the wheel doesn’t turn as smoothly as it should and could have a major effect on enforcement and the intended benefits of the Clearinghouse.”

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