On January 6, 2020, FMCSA’s Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse arrived, sort of. While technical challenges defined its first couple weeks in existence, there’s a fair amount of user error or misunderstanding that has compounded frustrations. One such misunderstanding surrounds the use of the term Owner-Operator (O/O). In trucking, if you own the truck you use to haul freight, you are an O/O. In the technical world of federal regulations and the Clearinghouse this may not be the case.

For the Clearinghouse, what matters is not who owns the truck but under whose authority the O/O is, well, operating. O/Os operating under the motor carrier’s authority are considered employee drivers for Clearinghouse purposes. O/Os using their own authority are considered both motor carriers and drivers, and must be registered in the Clearinghouse. Complicating matters in the Clearinghouse is a pop-up message that appears as drivers register that instructs all O/Os to register as an employer. Don’t be fooled. What matters is not who owns the truck, but who owns the authority to operate.