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December 12, 2019 2:45 PM, EST

FMCSA Issues Final Rule for States to Comply With Clearinghouse Requirements

Technicians test specimens at the Quest Diagnostics laboratory in Teterboro, N.J. (Quest Diagnostics)

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced Dec. 12 a final rule extending by three years the date for state driver's licensing agencies to comply with certain Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse requirements.

The December 2016, commercial driver license Clearinghouse rule requires states to request information from the Clearinghouse about individuals prior to issuing, renewing, upgrading or transferring a CDL.

FMCSA’s new action will allow states’ compliance with the requirement — currently due to begin Jan. 6 — to be delayed until Jan. 6, 2023.

Drug and Alcohol clearinghouse logo

The announcement, however, said the agency also would allow 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, the Federal Register pre-publication announcement said.

“The compliance date extension allows FMCSA the time needed to complete its work on a forthcoming rulemaking 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,” FMCSA said. “The compliance date of Jan. 6, 2020, remains in place for all other requirements set forth in the Clearinghouse final rule.”

FMCSA said it has concluded that the delay will not impact highway safety.

The announcement said that following publication of the 2016 final rule, the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA), a trade association representing driver licensing authorities from the 50 states and the District of Columbia, asserted that the rule failed to address various operational issues related to the states’ role in the Clearinghouse.

AAMVA raised several concerns ranging from what FMCSA does with the information from the states to what privacy and data controls will be applied to the transmission of Clearinghouse information to the state agencies.

FMCSA said it is currently working on a “Clearinghouse II” notice of proposed rule that will specifically address the issues raised by AAMVA.

The agency said it received 13 comments in response to the Sept. 6 NPRM first proposing the partial delay.

Three individuals opposed extending the compliance date for the states’ query requirements, noting the importance of implementing the Clearinghouse without delay.

FMCSA logo

“However, two of those commenters erroneously believed the proposal was to delay the entire Clearinghouse final rule and not solely the states’ query provision,” FMCSA said.

FMCSA said American Trucking Associations expressed disappointment that the agency proposed to delay the states’ query requirement by three years, but acknowledged the need to “resolve AAMVA’s concerns and ensure a seamless implementation of the states’ Clearinghouse requirements.”

ATA also recommended that, during the three-year delay, the agency encourage states “to adopt their own procedures to review Clearinghouse information through the FMCSA portal before issuing, upgrading, renewing or transferring a CDL.”

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association commented that the proposed extension may cause confusion, noting that “drivers might interpret any delay in the Clearinghouse as a delay in the entire program, thus failing to register at the proper time,” FMCSA said.

OOIDA suggested that FMCSA consider extending the compliance date for all Clearinghouse requirements “to allow the entire industry sufficient opportunity to register…and provide additional time for the agency to ensure an efficient rollout.”

But FMCSA said it believes that comments suggesting that the agency should delay the entire Clearinghouse rule, or parts of the rule unrelated to the states’ query requirement, are without merit.

“Clearinghouse registration for authorized users has been underway since October 1, 2019, and FMCSA intends to make the Clearinghouse operational beginning January 6, 2020, as required by the 2016 final rule,” FMCSA said.

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