Will FMCSA ‘stand up’ the long-awaited CDL Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse in 2019, allowing the industry to meet the January 2020 compliance deadline? Or, will the Clearinghouse be delayed? It’s a fair question, and one I’ve received a few times early this year from industry colleagues. As a result of the question, I went to the source—the right folks at FMCSA, and here’s what I learned.

FMCSA has every intention of meeting its internal deadlines to develop, test and begin implementing the ‘industry side’ of the Clearinghouse this year. The Agency does not want a delay, nor do key staff currently anticipate a delay. FMCSA is working closely with the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center**, a separate part of the USDOT that serves as a technical resource for agencies like FMCSA, to write the
software, acquire the hardware, establish system security protocols, create a carrier registration process, etc. FMCSA expects Volpe to finish its work later this year, and is planning to allow carriers and others (i.e., Medical Review Officers and Third-party Administrators) to begin registering for Clearinghouse use in the October 2019 timeframe.

Even before this happens, however, FMCSA plans to undertake an industry outreach program, beginning in the Spring that will include a new webpage to provide the industry with Clearinghouse-related information, FAQs, etc. This outreach effort is likely to include webinars, motor carrier checklists, and other user-friendly resource documents, similar to what FMCSA provided during ELD implementation.

It’s important to note, however, that the ‘State side’ of the Clearinghouse will experience a delay. FMCSA’s 2016 Clearinghouse rule did not specifically address how State Driver Licensing Agencies were supposed to use drug or alcohol violation information in the Clearinghouse during the CDL licensing or renewal process. As a result, FMCSA will be undertaking a rulemaking process this year to clarify State CDL-related responsibilities.

So, as it stands today, the answer to the question—will 2019 bring Clearinghouse implementation, or a delay?—appears to be yes and no. Implementation for industry use currently appears on track. State use of the Clearinghouse, and State CDL-related actions based on Clearinghouse data, will be delayed for the foreseeable future.

** “Volpe” may sound familiar to you because it is the USDOT organization that helped create the CSA SMS scoring methodology for FMCSA, and it is essentially the CSA ‘back office’.