In order to give state motor vehicle agencies more time to ramp up their IT systems, federal officials have delayed the compliance deadline for the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse. The Clearinghouse is a new data tool for employers, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and state agencies to gain real-time information about drivers and possible drug and alcohol program violations.
The new ruling will postpone the deadline from January 2020 until January 2023, giving agencies ample time to come up to date in order to access the system. For drivers and carriers, however, the 2020 deadline remains intact.
Recently, the FMCSA said, “The compliance date extension allows FMCSA the time needed to complete its work on a forthcoming rule making to address the states’ use of driver-specific information from the clearinghouse and time to develop the information technology platform through which states will electronically request and receive clearinghouse information.”
Many industry experts and safety watchdogs believe the delay may adversely affect highway safety because employers will not have the latest information on their drivers. The Clearinghouse rules state employers must use the database to conduct pre-hiring screening for new drivers.
This will help to stop drivers from moving from one job to another despite having drug or alcohol violations with their previous company. Checking the database will also be required annually by carriers in checking current drivers, although drivers must give consent for such inquiries.
The delay was prompted in part by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) who asked five important questions:
- What does FMCSA intend that the states do with the information they receive from the clearinghouse?
- What specific information would states receive in response to a request for information about an individual’s commercial driver’s license (CDL) holder or applicant?
- What privacy and data controls will be applied to the transmission of clearinghouse information to SDLA’s[state driver’s license agencies]?
- How would an erroneous clearinghouse record be corrected?
- What are the cost implications for the SDLAs?
FMCSA has given assurances it will address each of the AAMVA’s questions with “Clearinghouse II” which it is currently working on. “Delaying the implementation of the states’ query requirement will provide FMCSA time to resolve AAMVA’s concerns and ensure a seamless implementation of the states’ clearinghouse-related requirements,” said the FMCSA.
FMCSA also made it clear that states need only access the Clearinghouse for the issuance and renewal of a current commercial driver’s license and that commercial learner’s permits were not part of the process. FMCSA hopes that once everyone is on board, highway safety will be improved because drivers who are prohibited from driving a commercial motor vehicle will no longer fall through the cracks and end up back on the road.