The grace period for not being inside the FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, a database of drivers and such violations, is approaching its end rapidly, January 6th. If you drive under your own Authority, you must conduct a limited query for yourself and all drivers under your Authority by that date, or you may be fined up to $2,500 per offense.
A limited query is a simplified version of the database pull: it will tell you whether or not the driver has a spotless record, but if they do not, it will not tell you what the violations were.
To obtain a limited query on a driver, the company must obtain the general consent of the driver to do a limited query on them. This can be a written or oral agreement, and last for one year after agreeing to it.
The limited query is contrasted with a full query, which has much more data involved in it (what violation occurred, when, and where), but requires electronic consent from within the Clearinghouse database itself to be performed. While a full query is not needed to be done each year, it must be done within the first year of hiring a new driver aboard.
The FMCSA says that they are still a far way off from having all of the United States motor carriers in their system. For the first 10 months of 2020, they approximated 150,000 out of the 525,000 or so motor carriers were established in the database. This is problematic for average fleet that may get caught not being inside the Clearinghouse’s files during an inspection, but it means a massive payday for the FMCSA: if 200,000 owner-operators drive alone, are not in the clearinghouse, and are caught, that is a $500 million windfall for the FMCSA.
We wrote earlier about how it would be a good idea to query the Clearinghouse when website traffic is low and the website is not susceptible to crashes, but now is a better time than to never do it. Coincidentally, those that would most be impacted by the $2,500 fine, owner-operators who drive under their own authority, will have the easiest time querying the Clearinghouse. No new hires means no full queries, and chances are you already have your own general consent.