Recently, we’ve heard many questions surrounding the definition of owner-operator, what owner-operators are required to do to remain compliant with U.S. Department of Transportation drug and alcohol guidelines, and how owner-operators should register in the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA) Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse.
Here are a few quick reminders to help ensure that you are using the correct process! We pulled this right off the FMSCA Clearinghouse website, which you can find here clearinghouse.fmcsa.dot.gov, if you need more information.
If you are an owner-operator (O/O) you essentially have two roles in your business. You are both the employer and the driver (employee). This means you must comply with Clearinghouse requirements for both employers and employees. Therefore, you are required to register as the driver to give consent for queries AND you must register as the employer to enter data and conduct queries.
Your designated Third Party Administrator (that’s TSS!) can assist in some areas of the Clearinghouse, including conducting queries on your behalf and reporting drug and alcohol program violations to the Clearinghouse. However, there are certain tasks the TPA is not permitted to do on your behalf. So be mindful of the duties of each party involved.
The Clearinghouse lists six steps that the O/O is required to follow to be in compliance:
- Register for a U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) number.
- Open an FMCSA Portal account.
- Verify your USDOT number with the FMCSA Clearinghouse.
- Select your third-party administrator (TPA); they may also be known as a “consortium administrator” (CTA).
- Inform the FMCSA Clearinghouse that you have a TPA by designating the TPA in your account and allowing them access.
- Purchase a query plan that meets your needs. Your TPA is not allowed to do this for you.
Once you are registered and have selected your query plan, you are then able to access the Employer side of the Clearinghouse. This is where you would perform the following duties:
- Substance Abuse Reporting
- Query on current employee (your) substance abuse records
- Query on prospective employee substance abuse records if you plan to hire a second driver
- Report substance violations (The designated C/TPA can do this on your behalf.)
- Report negative Return to Duty test results
- Report successful driver follow-up testing plan
Remember, this process is for ONE COMPANY/ONE DRIVER. If you have two drivers, you are not an O/O, but a small business.
Have questions? You can call the FMCSA Clearinghouse at (844) 955-0207 or visit the website. The Clearinghouse website has a wealth of information and frequently asked questions that are very helpful. And, remember, you can always contact TSS for guidance.