September 1, 2019 Safety and Compliance

DOT Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s new requirements for a Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse go into effect on January 6, 2020.  On and after that date, all companies that use drivers who have a Commercial Driver’s License or a Commercial Learner’s Permit must do three things:

  1. Register with the FMCSA to use the Clearinghouse. Registration will be available on the FMCSA website beginning in Fall 2019.
  2. Upload information to the Clearinghouse on any drug or alcohol violations by any CDL driver that your company uses.
  3. Query the Clearinghouse for drug or alcohol violations by any prospective CDL driver that your company is considering hiring or contracting to use to operate a commercial motor vehicle. Companies must also annually query the database for information about all current CDL drivers they use.

Registration.   Motor carrier companies will have to register with the clearinghouse in order to upload information about an employee driver’s positive tests or refusals to take a test, and also to query the system for current or prospective drivers.  A company may use a Consortium/Third Party Administrator (C/TPA) to access the clearinghouse database on behalf of the company.

Drivers must also register with the clearinghouse to provide electronic consent to the company seeking information regarding the driver, and to review the accuracy of any information in the queried driver’s clearinghouse record.

Uploading Information. When one of your drivers tests positive for drugs or alcohol, or refuses to take a DOT-mandated drug or alcohol test, that information must be uploaded into the clearinghouse database.  The Medical Review Officer will report the information to the clearinghouse on behalf of the company.

Only positive DOT test results or refusals to take a DOT test may be reported to the clearinghouse.  Companies may not report non-DOT tests or refusals to the clearinghouse.

The clearinghouse will notify the driver using the method indicated during the driver’s clearinghouse registration—either mail or email—any time information about the driver is added, revised, or removed. If the driver has not yet registered for the clearinghouse, these notifications will be sent by mail using the address associated with the driver’s commercial driver’s license.

Queries.  A query is an electronic check in the clearinghouse, conducted by an employer or prospective employer or their designated Consortium/Third Party Administrator, to determine if current or prospective driver employees are prohibited from performing safety-sensitive functions, such as operating a commercial motor vehicle, due to unresolved drug and alcohol program violations.

There are two types of queries:

LIMITED QUERIES • This is check for the presence of information in the queried driver’s clearinghouse record.  A driver must give written consent to an employer or prospective employer before the limited query may be conducted.  If the Limited Query indicates there is information in the driver’s clearinghouse record, then a Full Query is necessary to find out the nature of the drug or alcohol program violations in the driver’s record.

FULL QUERIES • The queries disclose to employers and designated C/TPAs detailed information about any resolved or unresolved violations in a driver’s clearinghouse record.

If a limited query returns a result that there is information recorded in the clearinghouse about the queried driver, and the employer follows up with a full query to access the detailed violation information, the employer will only be charged once for both queries.

All queries into the database will cost $1.25 each.  A company may purchase queries from the clearinghouse in bundles to avoid paying each time there is a transaction, but the cost is still $1.25 per query.

The Clearinghouse will contain only violations that occurred on or after January 6, 2020. If a driver’s violation occurred prior to January 6, 2020, and is in the return-to-duty (RTD) process when the Clearinghouse is implemented, the violation and any related RTD activity will not be entered into the Clearinghouse.

More Information.  There is more information for employers at the link at the beginning of this memo, including a list of Frequently Asked Questions.  Companies may also sign up at the link for email alerts from the FMCSA when new information on the clearinghouse becomes available, including when the registration procedure is open in the Fall of 2019.

FMCSA Publishes Hours of Service Proposal
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has published its proposed rulemaking to revise the driver hours of service rules.  84 Fed. Reg. 44190 (August 22, 2019).  The deadline for comments on the proposal is October 7, 2019.

The proposal includes five key revisions to the existing HOS rules:

  • It would revise the 30-minute break requirement by requiring a driver, after eight hours of driving time without an interruption, to take a break for at least 30 minutes, but the driver may record the time as “on duty, not driving” or “sleeper berth” rather than “off duty.”  Thus, the driver could perform other non-driving work-related tasks during the break time.  Also, the current rule requires a break after eight hours since the last off duty or sleeper berth period of at least 30 minutes—the proposal would change this to require a break after eight hours of driving time without at least a 30-minute break.
  • The proposal would modify the sleeper-berth exception to allow drivers to split their required 10 hours off duty into two periods: one period of at least seven consecutive hours in the sleeper berth and the other period of not less than two consecutive hours, either off duty or in the sleeper berth. Neither period would count against the driver’s 14‑hour driving window.
  • The agency proposes to allow one off-duty break of at least 30 minutes, but not more than three hours, that would pause a truck driver’s 14-hour driving window, provided the driver takes 10 consecutive hours off-duty at the end of the work shift. This would permit a driver to work in up to a 17-hour window with a three-hour break during the duty period.  The driver still would not be able to drive a commercial motor vehicle more than 11 hours during this period, however.
  • The FMCSA proposes to modify the adverse driving conditions exception by extending by two hours the maximum window during which driving is permitted. The regulations define “adverse driving conditions” to mean “snow, sleet, fog, other adverse weather conditions, a highway covered with snow or ice, or unusual road and traffic conditions, none of which were apparent on the basis of information known to the person dispatching the run at the time it was begun.”

FMCSA Requests Comments on Permanent Crash Preventability Determination Project
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has published a notice requesting public comments on whether to make the agency’s crash preventability determination program permanent.  84 Fed. Reg. 38087 (August 5, 2019).  On July 27, 2017, FMCSA announced a crash preventability demonstration program to evaluate the preventability of eight categories of crashes through submissions of Requests for Data Review to its national data correction system known as DataQs.

Now, after 18 months, the agency has decided to operate a crash preventability determination program, using a streamlined process, and proposes to modify the Safety Measurement System to remove crashes found to be not preventable from the prioritization algorithm and noting the not preventable determinations in the PreEmployment Screening Program. In addition, FMCSA proposes to consolidate two of the original crash types in the demonstration program and start reviewing additional crash types to determine if crashes in the additional categories are predominantly not preventable.

CVSA Reported 1,600 CMVs Placed OOS During Unannounced Brake Inspections
On May 15, 2019, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s law enforcement members conducted 10,358 commercial motor vehicle inspections focused on identifying brake system violations. Of those inspections, 16.1% of vehicles had brake-related critical vehicle inspection items. Those 1,667 vehicles were placed out of service until the violations could be corrected.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, more than half a million commercial motor vehicle violations in 2017 were related to brakes. CVSA has announced it aims to call attention to this issue through its targeted brake safety enforcement and awareness campaigns, such as the May 15 unannounced inspection blitz.

During the May 15 campaign, inspectors also paid close attention to violations involving brake hoses/tubing:

  • There were 996 units with chafed rubber hose violations.
  • 185 units had chafed thermoplastic hose violations.
  • There were 1,125 violations of 49 Code of Federal Regulations § 393.45 and Canadian equivalent violations that included chafed rubber hoses.
  • There were 124 violations of 49 Code of Federal Regulations § 393.45 and Canadian equivalent violations that included kinked thermoplastic hoses.
  • Finally,the agency proposes a change to the short-haul exception available to certain commercial drivers by lengthening the drivers’ maximum on‑duty period from 12 to 14 hours and extending the distance limit within which the driver may operate from 100 air miles to 150 air miles (172.6 land, or statute, miles). This was one of the changes GAWDA requested in comments to the advance notice of proposed rulemaking last year.  Any driver (whether a CDL or non-CDL holder) who operates within the 150 air-mile radius and returns to the work-reporting location and is released from duty within 14 hours would be exempt from the requirements to complete driver logs, use electronic logging devices to record hours of service, or take 30-minute breaks.



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