The  Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse: What You Need to Know about Query Plans (Part 3)

💡The Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse became fully implemented on January 6, 2023. Per the FMCSA, employers of CDL drivers will no longer need to include drug and alcohol requests in the scope of the safety performance history process of hiring a driver—the employer’s query of the Clearinghouse will satisfy that requirement. Other previous employment verification processes remain unchanged—check out VOE+ to make some of these processes easier on your team!

The information on this page is historical, educational material on this change as part of DriverReach industry content offerings. For more information on the FMCSA’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, please visit its FAQ page

January 2020 is shaping up to be a critical month for carriers and their CDL drivers. With the launch of the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse on January 6, carriers are now required to run pre-employment full queries on all prospective drivers, as well as limited queries on every current driver, which means added steps to the hiring and retention process.

In this article, Dave Osiecki and Sean Garney, President and Vice President of Scopelitis Transportation, break down the different pricing options and plans for performing these driver queries through the Clearinghouse. (Did you miss Part 1 or Part 2? Be sure to read those first!) 

The first – and most important – thing to know about query pricing plans in the Clearinghouse is that they operate on a ‘pay first’ payment model. This means that before carriers can perform any queries, there must be query credits available in their Clearinghouse accounts.

If you haven’t already paid and ‘funded’ your account, your requested query won’t be delivered. Carriers will not be able to be billed later or run up a tab in the Clearinghouse. This eliminates concerns over delinquent accounts, outstanding payments, and other payment issues that might arise. Carriers will have to preload query payments into their accounts and then, as queries are requested, the relevant payments will be deducted from the account.

Query plans and pricing options

Starting out, limited and full queries will be priced the same at $1.25 per query. If you run a limited query and it prompts a full query, you can run the full query as part of the limited payment without being charged twice.

For carriers running a set number of queries per year, query bundles are also available for purchase. Just remember that while these bundles might look like they’re offering a discount, the trap of ‘government math’ doesn’t really provide any measurable deal. Bundles allow carriers to add more queries to their accounts at one time. Think of these bundles as ‘six one way or half a dozen the other’ – it’s going to cost you $1.25 per query regardless.

For carriers who know they will be running a large volume of queries over a given year, there is also an unlimited query option available. The unlimited plan costs $25,500, which means that carriers will have to run at least 19,600 queries per year to break even at $1.25 per query. Unlike query bundles which never expire, unlimited query plans expire at the end of every year. With bundles, if you purchase more queries upfront than you end up using in a year, they actually roll over into the next year like old-school cell phone minutes. But unlimited query plans will require a re-purchase every year.

A few things to keep in mind when it comes to queries

It’s very important to note that you can only purchase bundles and/or query plans through the Clearinghouse using Pay.Gov. There are no third-party sites or vendors for these plans so don’t be fooled! Additionally, there are a few different payment options available to carriers:

  • EFT = direct deposit/payment from a savings or checking account (ACH)
  • PayPal or Amazon Pay = these payment types are capped at $10,000 each.
  • Debit or Credit Card

Carriers were able to start purchasing query bundles and plans through Pay.Gov in November 2019 and accounts must be funded before any query requests can be sent. Also, keep in mind that third party administrators are not able to buy query bundles on a carrier’s behalf. They can run queries using existing bundles, but they cannot purchase these themselves.

How to determine the best query option for your company

Figuring out which query bundle or plan works the best for you will come down to the size and scope of your driver operations. At the end of the day, your plan should fit your unique business so your team can operate efficiently without wasting unnecessary resources.

First off, think about how many applicants or hires you will have annually. This will hinge on where in the hiring process you will be running queries. If you’re running queries early on, you might need to purchase more queries than if you are going to run queries at the end of the hiring process when the pool of applicants is much smaller.

You’ll also have to look at the average number of drivers currently employed. This will help cover the number of limited queries you will be required to run at least annually as part of the Clearinghouse’s annual review process. If you’re running limited queries more than once a year (which is recommended) you should multiply this number by the number of times you will be running limited queries for current drivers.

Just remember that queries purchased in bundles do not expire. So, if you purchase a few more than you might need for a given year you’ll be okay. This math will give you a good ballpark of where to start out.

Want to learn more about the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse? You can watch our on-demand webinar with Scopelitis Transportation, “The Time to Prepare is NOW! Your Recruiting and Compliance Action Plan For The Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse. '' Also, check back to the DriverReach blog for more in-depth Clearinghouse breakdowns over the next few weeks.

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Stay up to date on CDL trucking trends! Be sure to check out the DriverReach blog or follow us on LinkedIn for other relevant articles and head over to our webinars page for an up-to-date list of upcoming events and on-demand recordings.

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