What Is A FMCSA Clearinghouse: A Comprehensive Guide

Some people think that this is a home cleaning service. That is indeed funny but the FMCSA clearinghouse is anything but that. The clearinghouse is basically a web-based system that provides the FMCSA and all trucking companies and employers with the most necessary information related to the drivers that they want to employ in the future. 

Let’s dive deeper. The clearinghouse empowers them with the essential tools to identify the most qualified drivers and sift them from a pool of those barred from operating commercial motor vehicles. These prohibited individuals may have faced drug and alcohol-related issues at work. In essence, the clearinghouse confirms your potential driver’s clean record, ensuring they haven’t committed any drug or alcohol-related violations, making them eligible for CMV operation.

This is a comprehensive record that is available to the employer for reference so that they can choose the most suitable candidate for their company. The records of any drug and alcohol program violations always remain in the clearinghouse undisturbed for at least 5 years. If the driver has completed the return to duty process, the data gets updated accordingly.

Note: The FMCSA clearinghouse is a large pool of databases that provides employers with useful information related to and drug alcohol program violations made by any potential candidate they are looking to hire.

Understanding The Data System Of The Clearinghouse 

The data discussed here comprises failed DOT drug tests. A trucking company must request and obtain this violation data before selecting a driver for a specific role. Prior to hiring a driver for commercial vehicle or bus operation, they must query the FMCSA clearinghouse.

The Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse rule also mandates a new query for each company driver within 365 days of the last query. Industry experts and FMCSA recommend appointing a third-party administrator for timely compliance, allowing companies to concentrate on their core business activities.

Is The FMCSA Clearinghouse A Mandatory Requirement?

A lot of people ask this question. The answer is yes. Every trucking company is required to register for the clearinghouse. This is the only way to make a full query regarding the violations of any driver candidate you might be interested in. This is necessary and mandated by law if you are looking to fill in driver positions in your company.

As a trucking company, you must also request an update, which is the limited query, every 365 days of the last query request that you have made.

Not Registering For The FMCSA Clearinghouse

If you do not register for the dot clearinghouse, nothing is going to happen, for the time being at least. But if a dot compliance review or an unexpected audit is to take place, your company is going to face the fire. This is a violation of 49 CFR part 382 and it can get messy for your organization. The FMCSA can fine the carrier and the driver for up to $5,000 for each violation. It can be a little more than that and that’s even scarier.

Registering for the FMCSA clearinghouse is very easy and usually take somewhere between 30 minutes and 1 hour. It is better to just let your third-party administrator do it for you. It is going to ask for your user ID and password which you are able to set up when you set your dot authority. You will get a security code from the FMCSA that you must provide them to register for the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse.

What Is The Difference Between A Limited And A Full Clearinghouse Query?

This is the tricky part that a lot of trucking companies and carriers fail to wrap their heads around. But first, let’s understand how to run the FMCSA clearinghouse query without any trouble.

  • You just have to log in with your user ID and password
  • Then input the information of the driver
  • This will include the name, date of birth, CDL state, and CDL number of the driver
  • You will then need to select whether you prefer to conduct a full or limited query for the submitted driver.
  • Then you submit the request

For the full query to come through, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will obtain permission to release the records directly from the CDL holder. This might take a little bit of time but if the driver candidate is expecting this email, it’s not going to be complicated at all. You can also convey to the driver to remain on the lookout for a similar message from the FMCSA so that things can be faster. You will receive an email from the clearinghouse saying that the query is ready to be viewed once the full query is complete. In case of a limited query, this is available to you within 30 seconds of the submission.

Understanding The Difference Between The Two

A limited query is when you just want to check the presence of a violation record on any driver. A full query provides comprehensive violation details for any driver registered in the clearinghouse. It is important for you to request and review the full clearinghouse query of a particular driver before you hire him for your organization.

Deadline For Every Trucking Company To Register For The Clearinghouse 

And yes, there also happens to be a deadline for every trucking company to register for the clearinghouse. You will have to get in touch with your third-party administrator to understand what deadline applies to you.

It makes a lot of sense to say that understanding the clearinghouse and maintaining the regulations related to it laid down by the FMCSA becomes complicated many times for several trucking companies out there without a third-party administrator. The FMCSA clearinghouse requirement is an integral part of your dot compliance regulations. If you want to make sure that your company always has a distinct and coveted reputation in the industry, it is time to take the clearinghouse requirement seriously. It is time to choose an experienced and dependable third-party administrator right now.

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