The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is providing temporary relief to employers who are trying to hire new truck drivers but are unable to complete required background checks in the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse.
"If you are an employer currently experiencing technical difficulties accessing the Clearinghouse and are unable to conduct required pre-employment queries, you may hire a driver using solely the procedures set forth in 49 CFR 391.23(e)," the agency states in an alert posted on the clearinghouse website. "Once FMCSA has determined and announced that users are able to access the Clearinghouse, pre-employment queries must also be conducted as required by section 382.701(a)."
Pre-employment queries became a federal requirement for carriers as of Jan. 6, when the clearinghouse opened for conducting such checks. However, the system began crashing over the past several days due to a flood of registrations and query requests.
"If the FMCSA didn't provide this allowance, carriers would be in limbo with drivers that they couldn't put to work until the query results were returned, potentially losing out on revenue," said Marilyn Surber, transportation adviser for Tulsa, Oklahoma-based trucking compliance consultant Tenstreet. "They did the right thing."
Surber cautioned, however, that while FMCSA's query postponement means employers can temporarily hire drivers without conducting a full query, "the clearinghouse regulatory mandate is still in place, meaning that once the clearinghouse site is back up, employers still have to run a full query for all drivers hired on or after January 6, 2020."
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