Latest directive from the U.S. Department of Transportation authorizes assessment of civil penalties for drivers, carriers, medical review officers.

According to the latest directive from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) drivers, carriers and medical review officers (MROs) could be fined up to $5,833 for each violation of any provisions within the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse.

 

FMCSA to Assess Civil Penalties

the USDOT issued a final rule on Monday that implements the authority of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to assess civil penalties for violations of the Clearinghouse, at 49 CFR part 382 subpart G of the code of federal regulations.

“Any employer, employee, medical review officer, or service agent who violates any provision of 49 CFR part 382, subpart G … is subject to a civil penalty not to exceed $5,833,” the rule states.

That amount is more than double the $2,500 per violation that was outlined in much of the guidance issued by nongovernment entities in both the lead-up and implementation of the Clearinghouse over the past two years.

 

Clearinghouse Provision History

$2,500 was set for violations pertaining to CDLs in a statute established more than 30 years ago, effectively the statutory amount hasn’t changed since 1986. In another statute, Congress requires the FMCSA to pass a regulation every year to update that amount for inflation.

While FMCSA’s Clearinghouse did not exist when the statute was established, the current fine for clearinghouse provision violations “reflect an inflation increase that started at $2,500 in 1986 and had been subject to several inflationary adjustments prior to 2015. Since 2015, it has been adjusted every year.”

One example of a violation of a Clearinghouse provision would be an employer accessing a driver’s record from the database without getting the proper written or electronic consent from the driver.

As of Dec. 1, 162,485 employers, 1,599 MROs and 9,048 consortium/third-party administrators had registered with the Clearinghouse, according to the most recent data from FMCSA.

Also included in the updated penalties:

  • A Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) holder who is convicted of violating an out-of-service order is subject to a civil penalty of at least $3,230 for a first conviction and at least $6,460 for a second or subsequent conviction.
  • An employer of a CDL holder who knowingly allows or requires an employee to operate a commercial motor vehicle during any period in which the CDL holder is subject to an out-of-service order is subject to a civil penalty of $5,833 to $32,297.

 

What Does This Mean for Employers?

The FMCSA Clearinghouse contains records of drug and alcohol violations per FMCSA regulations, including positive drug or alcohol test results and test refusals. This helps employers identify drivers who are not legally permitted to operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) due to drug and alcohol program violations, further protecting their company by filtering out employees.

In addition to procuring the new FMCSA clearinghouse report, employers are required to continue processing the manual verification requests with all former employers (in the previous three years) as they onboard new commercial drivers.

 

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