September 11, 2023

What happens when a DOT employee has a testing violation recorded in the FMCSA Clearinghouse and then changes modes?

By Guest Contributer

|By David Perlman, BA, NCAC II, SUDP, EAP

It is not uncommon for an individual to make a career change to another DOT mode of transportation. Transit operators may become truck drivers, merchant mariners may become railroad operators. Also, some employees hold dual status; pipeline operators may also have a commercial driver’s license.

But what happens in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse when someone fails an FMCSA test and then wants to work in a different transportation mode? Regulations clearly state that reports and their requirements follow the individual. But, if you are not an FMCSA entity, you cannot post results in the Clearinghouse. What if an employee takes the Return to Duty test and then completes all of their Follow-up testing requirements while being employed by another transportation mode? Will they get no credit in the Clearinghouse? If they want to subsequently apply for an FMCSA position, will they need to repeat the entire testing process?

These are questions that we didn’t have adequate answers for, until recently. An actual case led Patrice Kelly, JD, Senior Policy Executive Advisor for NDASA and FMCSA’s Clearinghouse leadership to work together on developing a process that can support the sharing of information between different modes so that employers aren’t left in the dark and employees can move forward from their violation.

The Case

A Federal Transit Authority (FTA) driver wanted to pursue some extra income and applied for a part-time position as a non-transit bus driver, operating under FMCSA. However, he failed his pre-employment drug test for the FMCSA-regulated job. After some ‘mild’ persuasion, he informed his FTA employer, before his next scheduled duty day. The FTA employer chose to retain the employee, suspending him from duty until he completed the Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) process.

The Medical Review Officer reported the pre-employment test violation to the Clearinghouse – Easy. The driver selected the SAP and followed the process – Easy. The SAP reported the Initial and Follow-up evaluations to the Clearinghouse – Easy. The FTA employer has no access to the Clearinghouse – Problem. The FTA employer had no way of providing confirmation that the employee had successfully completed the Return to Duty and Follow-up tests that would make him eligible for future FMCSA employment as a non-transit bus driver.

The Resolution

FMCSA has approved the following process for these types of situations:

  1. The FTA (or other mode) employer must write a request to the Clearinghouse at,, on letterhead, explaining the details of the specific testing situation and attach a copy of the negative Return to Duty test.
  2. The Clearinghouse will manually enter the test and it will then show that the driver has completed Step 5 of the Return to Duty process.
  3. When the driver completes all required Follow-up tests, the FTA (or other mode) employer again must request that the Clearinghouse post the data and Step 6 will be completed – case closed.

Through good communication with the Clearinghouse at, gaps in the system can be resolved to help ensure that DOT employers, no matter the mode, can take every precaution to support a drug and alcohol free and safe workplace.

David Perlman is a US DOT Qualified Substance Professional in private practice serving Western Washington since 2005 and may be contacted at