If you’re in the trucking industry, you’ve probably heard about the CDL Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse law. You may even know that it comes into effect January 6, 2020. But you may not know what it means for you and your business. Let’s run through the basics of the law. Settle in for some condensed legalese.

First, what is the purpose of a Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse? Why make you jump through even more hoops just to do your job? According to 49 CFR Vol 5 §382.101, the purpose is to “establish programs designed to help prevent accidents and injuries resulting from the misuse of alcohol or use of controlled substances by drivers of commercial motor vehicles.” Basically, a sober driver is a safer driver, and when you’re driving something as big as you likely are, the safer, the better.

Next, you’re probably asking: does this apply to me? Short answer: probably. If you’re subject to the commercial driver’s license requirements, then you’re subject to the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse requirements. There are a few exceptions to this law, but they are small exceptions and apply to active duty military, farm vehicle operators, and firefighters and similar lifesaving personnel. States do have discretion to issue exemptions, but these will be few and far between.

Okay, so what do I need to do to comply? Well, don’t drink on the job and don’t drink too soon before work. A 0.04 or greater blood alcohol concentration or using alcohol within four hours of safety-sensitive work will get you in trouble. Controlled substance use while on duty is also a no-no except where prescribed by a doctor who is aware of the safety-sensitive nature of your work. Finally, if you get into an accident, you will also be tested.

Next question we think you’ll have: When will I be tested? Will it be often? You’ll likely be tested at the start of employment, after any vehicle accident resulting in loss of life, or totaling a vehicle or bodily injury where a driver is cited. Drivers may also be tested randomly to maintain a 10% annual percentage rate of random testing. The final reason you might be tested is because of reasonable suspicion. If an employer is able to provide specific reasoning including appearance, behavior, speech or body odor, they may test an individual.

Finally, you might be wondering how long will my employer hold onto drug and alcohol testing data? There are a few different retention for different types of results. Test results for negative and cancelled controlled substance tests as well as alcohol tests showing below 0.02 must be retained for one year. Records pertaining to the sample collection process must be maintained for two years. And test results showing a positive, 0.02 or greater, a testing refusal and evaluations must be retained for five years. 

While this law may seem like a lot to take it, overall it’s simple. Don’t drive under the influence and get tested when you’re asked.

Want to know what the new laws will do to fleets? Read our Fleet’s Guide to the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse