January 24, 2023

Updated DOT Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse

Cities that employ CDL drivers are required to participate in the Department of Transportation (DOT) Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse. The Clearinghouse began on Jan. 6, 2020. Since its inception, cities were required to query the Clearinghouse for drug and alcohol violations for current and prospective employees before permitting them to operate a commercial motor vehicle. During the first three years of the Clearinghouse, cities were required to complete both manual inquiries with prior employers and the electronic Clearinghouse query. The Clearinghouse has collected three years of information, and the Department of Transportation stated that as of Jan. 6, 2023, the database is fully implemented.

Under the regulation, cities will no longer have to manually reach out to previous employers for drug- and alcohol-related information about prospective drivers. This is a change from the previous three years as cities had a dual obligation to manually reach out to previous employers and ask drug- and alcohol-related questions for prospective drivers in addition to running queries through the Clearinghouse.

As of Jan. 6, 2023, prospective employers must conduct a pre-employment query of the Clearinghouse to comply with the inquiry requirement. Cities will still be required to reach out to previous employers for non-drug and alcohol-related questions under 49 CFR 391.23. Prospective motor carriers that have employees with CDLs must request information about general driver identification and employment verification from all previous employers in the last three years. Subsequently, the city will query the Clearinghouse to determine if the driver had violated drug and alcohol testing rules, failed to undergo the federal return-to-duty process, and had successfully completed a rehabilitation process with a substance abuse professional. If the city runs a Clearinghouse query and finds a driver who has previously tested positive, the city should work with its attorney to contact the driver’s previous employer.

Note that annual query requirements have not changed. Employers must conduct a query in the Clearinghouse at least once a year for every CDL driver that the city applies. This timeline is on a 12-month rolling basis. The city must receive consent from the employee before conducting this limited query.

FMCSA will roll out phase two of this process on Nov. 18, 2024, where all state driver licensing agencies will be required to use the Clearinghouse to query potential drivers before issuing, renewing, or upgrading a CDL. State driver licensing agencies will be in charge of suspending or downgrading a CDL if the driver has entered prohibitive status.

A city can register for a Clearinghouse account here and access a list of frequently asked questions compiled by the Department of Transportation here.

For more information on this or any personnel-related matters, contact KLC Personnel Services Attorney Michael Simon.