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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s long-awaited Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse experienced connectivity issues during its opening days.
The Clearinghouse, a database containing information on commercial driver license holders’ drug and alcohol violations, went live Jan. 6 and displayed error messages and experienced sluggish loading times. Carriers, state driver licensing agencies and law enforcement officials use the Clearinghouse to check a CDL holder’s violations.
FMCSA has placed a notice on the Clearinghouse website advising employers who are experiencing technical difficulties accessing the database to follow the procedures set forth in section 391.23(e) in title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations. This section details investigations employers must conduct for prospective drivers, including those that screen for drug and alcohol violations.
Message on FMCSA's Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse homepage gives users advice on what to do if they are unable to access the database. (clearinghouse.fmcsa.dot.gov)
The agency was continuing to work on the connectivity issues with the Clearinghouse. As of Jan. 9, the Clearinghouse website was performing more swiftly, yet the notice directed at those experiencing technical difficulties remained in place.
A department spokesman confirmed “the agency is continuing to work to resolve these technical challenges as soon as possible.”
The Clearinghouse rule requires drivers to register and consent to carriers checking their record for failed drug tests or refusals to take drug tests. Employers are required to check the Clearinghouse as part of pre-employment driver investigations and screen each of their currently employed CDL drivers at least once a year.
Abigail Potter, manager of safety and occupational health policy for American Trucking Associations, noted that many users were interested to understand how the Clearinghouse would look and operate, which likely added to the level of traffic the site received.
“The rollout with the Clearinghouse could’ve gone a little bit better,” Potter said. “The challenges that happened were definitely not unexpected. FMCSA over the past few days has worked very hard to resolve the problems, and every day has gotten a little bit better.”
In December, FMCSA issued a final rule extending by three years the date by which state driver licensing agencies must comply with certain Clearinghouse rule requirements. The rulemaking delays the compliance date for the requirement that states request information from the Clearinghouse before completing certain CDL transactions until Jan. 6, 2023.
However, the rule allows states the option to voluntarily query Clearinghouse information beginning Jan. 6. They may do this by registering in the Clearinghouse as an authorized user and logging in to view a driver’s record.
Potter said that the “Level 10” frustration people may have felt when trying to access the Clearinghouse during its opening days should have dropped to a level “2 or a 3” toward the end of the week. She also acknowledged that a few technical hiccups are common when a large agency deploys a major website and encouraged people to keep records of their interactions with the site.
“What we are recommending to employers and third parties and anyone who’s having technical difficulties is to document everything to show that you made an attempt to try to obtain this information,” Potter said.
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