As the trucking industry grudgingly lurches forward in the face of inevitable change —specifically, to the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA) Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse — the agency has announced what the new database, set to go into effect at the start of next year, is going to cost to use.
Per a directive from Congress in 2012, the FMCSA’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse will a national electronic database that will keep individual records of CDL holders of any positive drug or alcohol test results, as well as any test refusals and other drug and alcohol violations. The database will also record when a driver completes the return-to-duty process following a violation.
As of January 6, when the clearinghouse is officially activated, employers looking to hire a driver for a CDL-required position will be required to conduct a query through the database as part of the hiring process. Employers will also be required to perform a query at least once a year on every driver holding a CDL that is in their employ.
Trucking companies and owner-operators will have two options for paying query fees to access the records of drivers in the database. The first option will be to pay at a rate of $1.25 per query.
Carriers and owner-operators will be required to purchase what the agency is calling a query “bundle” on FMCSA’s website. There will be 19 bundles, ranging from a single query for $1.25 to a bundle of 7,500 queries for $9,375.
These bundles are valid indefinitely, although FMCSA is recommending employers purchase bundles based on a year’s anticipated need. If a carrier runs out of queries, they can purchase another bundle, but FMCSA recommends carriers choose a bundle based on the size of their fleet.
Large fleets have the option of paying a flat rate of $24,500 for a year of unlimited queries.
There will be two levels of queries into the database. The first is the limited query, for which the driver must give their permission. The limited query will simply indicate whether there are any items in the driver’s file. With a full query, the file is opened to show detailed information about any resolved or unresolved violations in the driver’s record.
“Purchasing a query plan enables employers, and their designated consortia/third-party administrators (C/TPAs) to conduct queries on prospective and current drivers in the Clearinghouse,” FMCSA said, noting that third-party administrators will not be allowed to purchase query plans on their own. At the same time, FMCSA noted that owner-operators will be required to work through a C/TPA to manage a drug and alcohol testing program.
The $1.25 fee applies to both limited and full queries. However, the FMCSA website explains, “If a limited query returns a result that there is information recorded in the Clearinghouse about the queried driver, and the employer follows up with a full query to access the detailed violation information, the employer will only be charged once for both queries.”
The Trucker News Staff produces engaging content for not only TheTrucker.com, but also The Trucker Newspaper, which has been serving the trucking industry for more than 30 years. With a focus on drivers, the Trucker News Staff aims to provide relevant, objective content pertaining to the trucking segment of the transportation industry. The Trucker News Staff is based in Little Rock, Arkansas.