An Employer's Guide to the FMCSA Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse

I. Registering in the Clearinghouse

A.  Employer Registration

You must register your company as an employer with the FMCSA Clearinghouse. If you would like ESS to perform as your consortium/third-party administrator (“C/TPA”) by querying and/or reporting to the Clearinghouse on your behalf, you must designate ESS as your C/TPA during the registration process.  DOT employers that have a USDOT number will use their FMCSA Portal Account to register. If you do not have a USDOT number, you will register at the Clearinghouse website.

You can start the registration process by visiting:

B. Driver Registration

Additionally, you should require all of your company’s current employee-drivers to register with the FMCSA Clearinghouse immediately and all prospective employee-drivers to register early in the application stage.  Some queries in the Clearinghouse (Full and Pre-Employment Queries) require electronic consent, which the driver must provide via his/her online FMCSA portal. Drivers who are registered ahead of time will have their accounts and contact preferences setup, allowing them to quickly respond to Full and Pre-Employment Query requests from employers.

When an employers order a Full Query on an unregistered driver, the driver will be sent notification of the employer’s intent to perform a Full Query by USPS to the address on their CDLs. The FMCSA expects at least a 10-day delay for this manual process (that’s assuming the address on the driver’s CDL is correct and up to date).

Accordingly, you will want to make sure that all of your current employees are registered before January 6 th and that all prospective employees are registered early in the application process in order to avoid any undue interruptions to your company’s daily operations or delays in the hiring process. You can find an exemplar notice to drivers, titled “Important Notice to CDL Drivers” here

Helpful Tip: Employers who use online employment applications may consider including a link to the Clearinghouse registration page for the convenient use of prospective drivers.

C.  The Importance of the CDL Number

Employers must educate their drivers about the mandatory requirement to supply their CDL number on the Control and Custody Form (or “CCF”) when submitting a specimen for drug or alcohol testing. You should also your internal specimen collectors to be sure they are recording the driver’s CDL number at the time of collection. A failure to properly record the CDL number on the CCF will prevent you, ESS, and the MRO from being able to make reports to the Clearinghouse.

II. Querying the Clearinghouse

As of January 6, 2020, employers or their designated C/TPAs are required to conduct queries to determine whether their current and prospective employees are prohibited from performing in safety-sensitive job positions, such as operating commercial motor vehicles, due to unresolved drug and alcohol program violations.

A.  Types of Queries

There are four types of queries available in the Clearinghouse:

  • Pre-employment Queries provide detailed information about any drug and alcohol program violations in a driver’s Clearinghouse record.
  • Full Queries provide detailed information about any drug and alcohol program violations in a driver’s Clearinghouse record.
  • Limited Queries provide notification about whether the Clearinghouse contains any information about the driver. Users must manually trigger a Full Query to receive detailed information about the driver.
  • Limited + Full Queries will provide notification about whether the Clearinghouse contains any information about the driver and automatically trigger a Full Query without any user intervention.

B.  Query Requirements

Employers must conduct queries in the Clearinghouse as follows:

  • You must conduct a Pre-employment Query before hiring any CMV driver.
  • You must conduct an Annual Query for each employee-driver. Annual Queries can be either Full, Limited, or Limited + Full Queries. Employers can go ahead and designate a date for ESS to conduct your annual queries for your current drivers, as you will be required to conduct your first annual queries for all employee-drivers before January 5, 2021. 
  • You must conduct a Full Query and receive the results within twenty-four hours after receiving preliminary results from a Limited Query. The failure to complete a Full Query within twenty-four hours will result in the requirement for you to pull the driver from any safety-sensitive position until the Full Query is completed.

Remember: As violations occurring before January 6, 2020, won’t be available to employers in the Clearinghouse, you must conduct both Clearinghouse queries and normal offline pre-employment investigations with previous employers to comply with DOT regulations until January 6, 2023.

C.  Consent Requirements

Employers must receive consent from drivers before conducting queries as follows:

  • Limited Queries only require a general consent, which must be obtained outside of the Clearinghouse. Employers can find an example limited-query consent form by visiting General consent is not required to be obtained on an annual basis, as it may be effective for more than one year. However, the form must specify the timeframe the driver is providing consent for, such as for the duration of the driver’s employment.
  • Pre-employment Queries and Full Queries will automatically trigger an electronic consent form to be sent to the driver via his/her Clearinghouse Portal. Consent is required prior to each query and must be received by the employer within twenty-four hours. If the driver fails to provide electronic consent within twenty-four hours, he/she must be pulled from any safety-sensitive position.

D.  Query Plans

Employers will be charged a fee by the FMCSA for Full and Limited Queries of $1.25 per query (plus any services costs incurred by using a C/TPA). Queries must be purchased in batches, and these will never expire. Unlimited packages are also available for high-volume employers. Unlimited packages cost $24,000 and must be renewed annually.

Employers must purchase queries directly from the Clearinghouse, as C/TPAs like ESS are unable to purchase queries for their customers. ESS recommends purchasing a plan with an amount of queries equal to double the number of CDL drivers you currently employ. Fortunately, the queries you purchase do not expire unless you opt to use the unlimited query plan, which will expire a year from the purchase date. You can learn more about query plans and how to purchase them by visiting

E. Queries Conducted by ESS

1.   Querying Workflow

2.   Placing Orders in the ESS Portal

You must provide ESS with the following information about each driver when ordering a query:

  • First Name;
  • Last Name;
  • Date of Birth;
  • CDL/CLP Number;
  • Country of Issuance;
  • State of Issuance; and
  • The Type of Query You Wish to Conduct

Pre-employment Queries

To order a Pre-employment Query, you will enter the candidate profile information and select the appropriate package. ESS’s ordering system will prompt you to enter the driver’s CDL number and the state and country of issuance.

Annual Queries

To order an Annual Query, you will enter the candidate profile information and select the desired Annual Query type. ESS recommends selecting the Limited + Full option in order to streamline the process, should a Full Query be required. ESS’s ordering system will prompt you to enter the driver’s CDL number and the state and country of issuance.

3.   Batch Orders

Customers can make requests for ESS to run multiple queries in one order by sending a batch order request. To submit a request, visit, complete the form and select “FMCSA Clearinghouse” as the Screening Type. When submitting a batch order request, simply upload an Excel spreadsheet to your request that uses the following format:

The spreadsheet should be completed as follows:

First row Field Contents
LastName The driver’s last name. This would include hyphenated last names. Suffixes (Jr., Sr., etc.) to last names should not be included in the submittal.
FirstName The driver’s first name.
DOB The driver’s date of birth in the following format:  MM/DD/YYYY
CDL The driver’s CDL Number or Commercial Learner’s Permit Number.
Country The Country Code where the CDL was issued:

  • For CDLs issued in the United States use US
  • For CDLs issued in Canada use CN
  • For CDLs issued in Mexico use MX
State For CDLs issued in the United States and Canada, this field contains the two-character abbreviation for the State or Province where the CDL was issued.

For Mexican States, this field should contain MX.

QueryType The values should be 1, 2, 3, or 4 with the values indicating the following:

  • 1 – Limited Query
  • 2 – Full Query
  •  3 – Pre-employment Query
  • 4 – Limited Query with Automatic Consent Request*

ESS will invoice you for a batch order via your Verocity account on a single report order, meaning your monthly invoice will show a single line item with the total amount associated with the batch order. You will also receive a report of the multiple queries conducted in the Clearinghouse under that batch order in a document uploaded to the report. However, if the Clearinghouse query produces a result other than “Not Prohibited,” ESS will prepare a separate report for that driver without an additional charge to the Customer. Batch orders may return results “Driver Not Verified” in the Clearinghouse Portal for one or more drivers (due to incorrect information or incorrect formatting). In this case, ESS does not have the ability to cancel or delete the Query in the Clearinghouse; however, ESS will re-process the Query with the correct information the Customer will not lose a Query Credit from their Clearinghouse Account and will not be charged an extra fee by ESS to re-process the Query with the correct information.

III.     Reporting to the Clearinghouse

A.  Employer Reporting Requirements

There are six specific categories of driver information that must be collected by or on behalf of the employer and reported to the Clearinghouse. This information must be reported to the Clearinghouse by the close of the third business day following the date on which the employer first obtained any of the information stated below.

These are the six categories or items of driver information that employers must report:

  1. Alcohol concentrations of 0.04 or greater;
  2. A negative return-to-duty test;
  3. A refusal to take an alcohol test;
  4. A refusal to submit to a drug test;[1]
  5. An employer’s report of completion of follow-up testing prescribed in an SAP report; and
  6. An employer’s actual knowledge of a driver’s violation.[2]

When reporting any of these six items, employers must gather and provide the following information to the Clearinghouse (or to ESS to report to the Clearinghouse on your behalf):

  • The driver’s name, date of birth, CDL# and state of issuance; and
  • The employer’s name, address and US DOT #.

When reporting items 1-5 (all items except for actual knowledge violations), employers must include:

  • The reason for the test
  • The date of the test
  • The date the result was reported to the employer; and
  • The test result, which must be one of the following:
    • Negative (only report for RTD tests);
    • Positive; or
    • Refusal to test.

When reporting items 3-4 (refusals to test), employers must include:

  • Documentation showing the driver was notified of his requirement to appear at the test site, including the time, date, and location the employee was directed to appear;
  • Documentation indicating the employee was terminated or resigned (if applicable); and
  • A certificate of service showing that the employee was provided with a copy of this documentation.

When reporting item 6 (actual knowledge violations), employers must include:

  • The date the employer obtained the actual knowledge;
  • Witnesses to the violation, if any, including contact information;
  • A written description of the violation;
  • Evidence supporting each fact alleged in the description of the violation (such as affidavits, photos, video/audio recordings, traffic citations, employee statements, correspondence, etc.); and
  • A certificate of service showing that the employee was provided with the documentation above.

If you choose to have ESS report violations to the Clearinghouse on your behalf as your C/TPA, you will have to be careful to gather all information, evidence, and documents required by the regulation to support your determination of each violation and submit this evidence packet to ESS in enough time to comply with the three-business-day deadline. ESS will provide you with a coversheet for your evidence packet to guide you through the collection and reporting process required for each type of report. You can find a copy of this coversheet here.

B.  Reporting Completed by ESS on Behalf of Employers

When you request ESS to report driver information to the Clearinghouse on your behalf, we ask that you place the order including all of the required supplemental information and/or documentation with ESS by the end of the second business day following the employer’s receipt of the information. This allows us to report the information to the Clearinghouse before the expiration of the three-business-day deadline. If you provide ESS with the information after the close of the second business day, we will still report the information to the Clearinghouse in a timely manner, however, we cannot guarantee the report will be made before the three-day deadline.

1.   Reporting Workflow

2.   Placing Orders in the ESS Portal

When requesting ESS to make a report to the Clearinghouse on your behalf, you will first enter in the candidate profile information and select applicable reportable event type. ESS’s ordering system will prompt you to enter the driver’s CDL number and state and country of issuance.

Next, the system will prompt you with a reminder that you must upload the DOT Clearinghouse Evidence Cover Sheet to the order before ESS can fully process the report.


After you upload your Evidence Packet to the order for and submit the order to ESS, we will process your report soon after we receive your request.

This publication is provided only for educational purposes; it should not be relied upon as legal advice, and it should not be used, in whole or in part, as a basis for establishing employment practices or policies, nor should it be used for resolving disputes or managing risk.  Every reader’s circumstances are unique and legal advice should be obtained only from a lawyer with whom the reader has established an attorney-client relationship. Copyright 2019 ©Employment Screening Services, Inc. All material contained within this publication is protected by copyright law and may not be reproduced without the express written consent of ESS.