In all the excitement about the new Hours of Service rules, there was another interesting item published in the Federal Register that may have been overlooked by many. A company called Motion Picture Compliance Solutions (MPCS) was granted a 5-year exemption by FMCSA from the requirement that employers perform a full query of the Clearinghouse before hiring a new driver. Instead, MPCS will be allowed to conduct a limited query and, if it returns information, only then would they have to conduct a full query.
To be sure, MPCS is in a unique position due to its captive driver pool and existing Clearinghouse-esque database. However, the exemption is in line with STC’s thinking on the Clearinghouse from the very beginning. That is, motor carriers should be allowed to perform a limited query (instead of the required full query) during the hiring process. This would alleviate the challenge of having drivers register and log on to the Clearinghouse to provide consent to the full query. What’s important is whether the carrier is hiring qualified drivers based on their drug and alcohol testing histories. Only a small percentage of drivers have and will have violation information in the Clearinghouse. As a result, in the vast majority of cases (far greater than 90% of the time), a limited query during hiring will return no information. Only in a small percentage of cases where the limited query indicates information exists in the Clearinghouse, should motor carriers be required to conduct a full query to obtain the complete driver record. There is a downside to this potential process, though. Namely that limited queries don’t come with the same 30-day guarantee, which alerts carriers if information is added or changed in a driver’s profile within 30 days of a pre-employment full query. But STC sees no good reason why that process shouldn’t be applied to the limited query as well. It would require a small tweak to the Clearinghouse, and a small tweak to the rules. What matters is the information, not how it’s obtained. With FMCSA bending over backward to provide carriers and drivers more flexible Hours of Service rules, shouldn’t this spirit be applied to other areas of compliance as well?