December 15, 2020 – Safety and Compliance

FMCSA Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse. Employers Must Conduct Annual Queries by January 5, 2021.

If an employer has already conducted a query on all currently-employed CDL drivers, that employer has met the annual query requirement, and is not required to conduct a query for one year from the query date.

Employers may also designate a consortium/third-part administrator (C/TPA) to conduct these queries on their behalf. Employers can log in to their Clearinghouse accounts and access their Query History page (under My Dashboard > Queries) to verify which drivers have been queried, and when each completed query was conducted.

If an employer has not yet conducted a query on each currently-employed CDL driver, the employer must conduct this annual check to meet the compliance requirement.

What do employers need to do to satisfy the annual query requirement?

Per § 382.701, employers of CDL drivers must conduct a query of the Clearinghouse at least once per year for each CDL driver they employ. A limited query satisfies the annual query requirement.

Employers must obtain a general consent from CDL drivers they employ before conducting limited queries in the Clearinghouse to view these drivers’ information (you can download a sample limited query consent form).

You can log in to the Clearinghouse and conduct your annual queries today.

What if an employer conducted a pre-employment query this year?

The pre-employment query will satisfy the annual query requirement for that driver. You are not required to query that driver until one year after that pre-employment query.

To learn more about queries and consent requests, download the Queries and Consent Requests Factsheet.

What is a query plan?

Before an employer can conduct queries in the Clearinghouse, the employer must purchase a query plan. Download the How to Purchase a Query Plan job aid for full instructions.

Return-to-Duty Follow-Up Testing Plans. If a CDL driver has incurred a drug and alcohol program violation, he or she must complete the return-to-duty (RTD) process established in 49 CFR part 40 before being permitted to return to safety-sensitive functions. A driver’s employer enters the following RTD information in the Clearinghouse: (1) date of the negative RTD test, and (2) date of the successful completion of follow-up testing program.

While a driver is eligible to perform safety-sensitive functions once he or she obtains a negative RTD test result, the driver is still required to complete the follow-up testing plan. This follow-up testing program must, at a minimum, include six unannounced tests within the first 12 months of returning to safety-sensitive functions.

Employers cannot enter the date of successful completion until the entire follow-up testing plan, including all prescribed follow-up tests, has been completed. If an employer enters this date in error, the employer should contact FMCSA to correct the error.

FMCSA to Conduct Q and A Session on Driver HOS Rule.  The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will conduct an online Question and Answer Session on the new driver hours of service rule.  The session will be held Thursday, December 17, 2020 from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. Eastern time.

During the webinar the agency will respond to public questions about the hours of service final rule that went into effect September 29, 2020, including revisions to the short-haul exception, the adverse driving conditions provision, sleeper berth rules, and the 30-minute rest break. Space is limited and registration is required.

If you are unable to attend the live session, a recording will be available on FMCSA’s hours of service web page after the webinar.

UCR Registration for 2021 is Now Open.  The Unified Carrier Registration Board has indicated that registration for the 2021 registration year is now open.  There are no changes to the fees for 2021.  Registration enforcement will begin January 1, 2021.

As set out in the UCR Handbook,Each entity subject to UCR is required to register annually with its base state and to pay an annual fee. The fees imposed on motor carriers and freight forwarders — businesses that operate motor vehicles – are graduated through a system of brackets, based on the number of vehicles they have operated; brokers and leasing companies, which operate no vehicles themselves, pay a fee at the level that applies to the smallest motor carriers. No UCR credential is issued to a UCR registrant; enforcement is accomplished through on-line data checks and various types of audit.”

PHMSA Issues 2019 Civil Penalty Report.  The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has issued its Annual Civil Penalty Report for 2019. The PHMSA Office of Hazardous Materials Safety processed 218 enforcement cases and 253 tickets in calendar year 2019. These enforcement actions resulted in the collection of $2,615,244 in civil penalties.

The report lists each violator company, a summary of the violation(s) and citation to the Hazardous Materials Regulations, and the amount of the final civil penalty assessed.

Failure to conduct the required hazardous materials training, particularly function specific training, is one of the most frequent violations noted.

FMCSA Grants Exemption for Pulsating Amber Brake-Activated Rear Warning Lamps.  The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has granted a request by Grote Industries, LLC for a 5-year exemption to allow motor carriers operating trailers and van body trucks to install amber brake-activated pulsating warning lamps on the rear of trailers and van body trucks in addition to the steady-burning brake lamps required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.  85 Fed. Reg. 78918 (December 7, 2020).

The agency noted that rear-end crashes generally account for approximately 30 percent of all crashes. These types of crashes often result from a failure to respond (or delays in responding) to a stopped or decelerating lead vehicle. Data between 2010 and 2016 show that large trucks are consistently three times more likely than other vehicles to be struck in the rear in two-vehicle fatal crashes.

FMCSA Proposes to Eliminate Annual Driver Submission of Violations.  The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is proposing to eliminate the requirement that drivers operating commercial motor vehicles in interstate commerce must prepare and submit a list of their convictions for traffic violations to their employers annually. 85 Fed. Reg. 80745 (December 14, 2020).

The FMCSA states this requirement is largely duplicative of a separate provision that requires each motor carrier to make an annual inquiry to obtain the motor vehicle record for each driver it employs from every State in which the driver holds or has held a CMV operator’s license or permit in the past year.

To ensure motor carriers are aware of traffic violations for a driver who is licensed by a foreign authority rather than by a State, that provision would be amended to provide that motor carriers must make an annual inquiry to each driver’s licensing authority where a driver holds or has held a CMV operator’s license or permit. This change would require motor carriers to request the MVR equivalent from Canadian and Mexican driver’s licensing authorities.



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