March 15, 2020

SAP Clearinghouse Questions & Answers

By Christine

Since the launching of the new Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse in January 2020 many questions have arisen about Clearinghouse processes and procedures. Everyone is committed to making the database work well for all who are involved and ensuring that U.S. Department of Transportation regulations are being followed.

Over the last few months, I have been connecting with Substance Abuse Professionals (SAP) around the country to find out what their most frequently asked questions are and how to best answer them. This article covers the top three and offers some observations on the current state of the Clearinghouse.

1. How do you record a Return-to-Duty test for a client?

Before you can record information about a driver’s return-to-duty (RTD) process in the Clearinghouse, the driver must designate you as his/her Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) in the Clearinghouse. You, as the SAP, must be registered in the Clearinghouse to be able to receive and respond to this designation request.

2. How does an SAP accept a Driver Designation?

When an SAP receives a designation request from a driver, a notification will appear in the SAP’s Dashboard. SAPs can also review all pending requests in their Driver List (under My Dashboard).

Note: Drivers are instructed to make contact with their SAP before designating him/her in the Clearinghouse. If you receive a designation request from a driver you do not know, we encourage you to contact the driver before responding to the request. The driver’s contact information will be displayed in your Driver List.

If a driver wishes to designate you as his or her SAP but does not see the option to designate an SAP in their Driver Dashboard, this may be because the driver has not yet added and verified his/her CDL information in his/her Clearinghouse profile. If the driver has correctly verified his/her CDL information, the violation may have been entered in the Clearinghouse with incorrect CDL information. In this case, it would need to be re-entered by the Medical Review Officer (MRO) or employer.

3. What does the SAP record in the Clearinghouse?

The SAP must report the following information about a driver’s RTD process in the Clearinghouse: (1) the date of the initial SAP assessment, and (2) the date the SAP determines that the driver is eligible for RTD testing, due to completion of the education/treatment plan.

RTD information must be reported to the Clearinghouse in the order outlined in the Clearinghouse rule to be properly recorded.  Do not upload the education/treatment plan, reports, or any other information to the Clearinghouse. This information must be provided to the driver’s employer outside the Clearinghouse, using the same means as before January 6, 2020.

SAPs may not access a driver’s violation information in the Clearinghouse.

Ongoing Issues: Many drivers are not registered

As an SAP, you will notice that at this point the new system is not entirely without glitches. The main problem is that many drivers have not yet registered in the Clearinghouse.

FMCSA reported that more than 3,000 drivers with violations in January had not registered on the Clearinghouse. (Probably because they heard that registration wasn’t “mandatory”, and because they didn’t expect they would ever have a violation). When a driver has not registered on the Clearinghouse, DO NOT CALL THE EMPLOYER. The employer isn’t able to register drivers. Remember:

  • ONLY DRIVERS can register themselves.
  • Employers register only their company.
  • Drivers must register themselves.
  • Employers and drivers are not linked in any way on the Clearinghouse.

A driver might work for two or three different employers. When a driver has a violation, who he works for is irrelevant. The violation is on the driver’s record, not on the employer’s record. Don’t try to search for a driver on the Clearinghouse. Only an employer is able to search for a driver. To search, the employer must have purchased a Query Plan. The search will cost the employer $1.25, which is deducted from the Query Plan. A driver, however, can go to his record on the Clearinghouse at any time, at no cost. If you are a driver’s SAP, you can go to his record only if the driver has invited you.

Every case is different. To ensure that you are complying with all Federal regulations, educate yourself about your situation and don’t hesitate to ask questions. Visit the FMCSA website or call the helpline at 844-955-0207 for information and resources or contact Deborah Kay-Ostrander at Keys to Success. We are in the process of gathering questions and formulating answers that will allow Clearinghouse procedures to work as easily and efficiently as possible for everyone involved.

This article was submitted by NDASA member Deborah Kay-Ostrander MS IAADC SAP. Deborah is an international alcohol and drug counselor, qualified Federal DOT Substance Abuse Professional and executive director of Keys to Success, an Iowa-based substance abuse treatment, SAP and DUI/OWI services provider.

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