If you're a truck driver, a safety manager, or an HR employee for a trucking company, you've probably heard about the FMCSA Clearinghouse countless times. It gets mentioned in employee driver applications, safety meetings, consent forms that seem to come from HR every year, and there's probably a permanent poster in all driver's rooms about the FMCSA that slowly fades into the background more and more every day until it's no longer noticed. But what exactly is the FMCSA Clearinghouse, why is it everywhere, and more importantly, what does the acronym even stand for?
The FMCSA stands for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which was established on January 1, 2000, as part of the Department of Transportation (DOT). The government administration's main purpose is to prevent injuries and deaths that are caused by commercial motor vehicles, and by doing the following:
Developing CDL tests
Collecting and analyzing data regarding motor carrier safety
Giving individual states financial aid for commercial motor vehicle safety programs and roadside inspections
Enforcing regulations regarding highway transportation and safety performance
Holding drivers' safety inspection history of the last 3 years
Holding drivers' accident history of the last 5 years
The data that is collected and analyzed by the FMCSA is from the FMCSA Commercial Driver License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, nicknamed the Clearinghouse due to its long name. After all, it is easier to say one word instead of twelve. The Clearinghouse provides real-time information of any drug and alcohol violations committed by commercial learner's permit (CLP) and commercial driver's license (CDL) holders. The Clearinghouse must also provide the same information to consortia/third-party administrators (C/TPAs), FMCSA-regulated employers (such as trucking companies), substance abuse professionals (SAPs), and medical review officers (MROs). For trucking companies specifically, current and potential employers of CDL drivers must query the Clearinghouse, but must be given authorization by the driver. If a CDL driver is looking for a job, then they must give authorization to their prospective employer for an initial Clearinghouse check; if a CDL driver is already employed, then they must give authorization to their current employer for an annual Clearinghouse query. The FMCSA is the U.S. government's effort to protect every driver from a potential accident by creating preventative regulations for CLP and CDL drivers, and their employers. The administration's Clearinghouse is just one of the tools used in order to help employers be aware of potential and current drivers of any accidents, drug violations, or alcohol violations, which helps employers be more cautious of who they hire and drivers be more responsible to maintain a clean record for current and future employment as a commercial driver.