How Motor Carriers Can Navigate the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse

April 20, 2020 by Trucks.com, @trucksdotcom

Editor’s note: Written by Jeremy Reymer is the founder and chief executive of CDL driver applicant tracking system, DriverReach. This is one in a series of periodic guest columns by industry thought leaders.

Launched on Jan. 6, 2020, the Department of Transportation has operated the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse for more than three months now. Though not without hiccups, the database has proven an effective way to identify ineligible drivers. It is making our roads and highways safer.

In just the first two months, the Clearinghouse identified more than 11,000 positive substance abuse tests with more than 700,000 drivers and carriers registered, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The effectiveness of the mandate is undeniable, but driver and organization participation isn’t what it should be at this point in time. Navigating new Clearinghouse processes while remaining compliant is essential for drivers, carriers and fleets.

Jeremy Reymer

With the database, and annual and new hire query system firmly in place, it’ll be much easier for governing organizations such as the FMCSA to police and penalize those ignoring the mandate. The FMCSA has been very clear about utilizing all of the resources at its disposal to investigate, enforce, and punish, if necessary. So much so, in fact, employers not implementing proper compliance measures or not querying the system when required can be fined up to $2,500 per violation. Additionally, roadside law enforcement has access to driver qualification data, making it easier for them to identify disqualified operators.

With these new workflow requirements in motion, it’s critical for employers and carriers to re-analyze their hiring, recruitment, and management processes. Recruitment is especially difficult as we’re still in the midst of a qualified driver shortage. To more efficiently juggle all these responsibilities, follow these steps to optimize your workflow as you navigate the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse:

EVALUATE THE HIRING PROCESS

The Clearinghouse is creating additional paperwork and compliance steps for recruiters and HR teams because, unfortunately, there’s no direct integration to make the processes run more smoothly. Carriers need to closely evaluate their hiring processes and analyze where improvements can be made. A pain point within our industry is the use of spreadsheets or paper-based management solutions by many employers. Utilizing customer relationship management, or CRM, applicant tracking systems and automation platforms throughout the hiring process will make it easier to be up-to-date with compliance workflow.

RECRUITING DRIVERS

Some aspects of the pre-employment Clearinghouse process are often overlooked by both employers and drivers, including the requirement for a new hire to electronically grant consent to a full query. In order to accomplish this, the driver must already be registered with the Clearinghouse. But many drivers looking for new jobs aren’t. To ease the process, carriers should provide prospective employees with specific instructions for how to register. Instead of waiting for drivers to take action, carriers should prompt them by proactively sending a message, email, or text a reminder early in the recruitment cycle.

PURCHASE A QUERY PLAN BUNDLE

Carriers are charged each time they conduct a Clearinghouse query for both annual check-ins and new hires. This process can turn into a big expense, especially for large fleets. Carriers must purchase a query bundle in order to perform the necessary queries. Fortunately, they’ll only be charged once for running a limited and full query (if necessary) on the same driver. Additionally, employers should know and predict their future Clearinghouse usage in order to pick the best bundle. The number of anticipated new hires, average time spent at the organization, and if they choose to query drivers more than just annually should all be taken into account.

 REVIEWING DRUG AND ALCOHOL TESTING POLICIES

Carriers, because of the Clearinghouse, will have to review their existing drug and alcohol testing policies, as the new mandate has required specific changes to current programs. Specific aspects that may need to be updated include reviewing policy language and new document retention requirements.

The industry has and will continue to benefit from the Clearinghouse, as it improves highway safety. However, in order to achieve its full potential, all parties involved must follow the mandate and remain compliant. Carriers and fleets can more easily manage Clearinghouse-related workflow by following these workflow optimization steps.

Editor’s note: Trucks.com welcomes divergent thoughts and opinions on transport technology and trucking industry issues. Use the comments section to cite yours. Qualified opinion leaders are welcome to offer suggestions for opinion columns. Contact info@trucks.com.

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