Clearinghouse FAQs for Owner-Operators

Kathy Close, Editor - Transport Safety

March 8, 2022



1. Who is an owner-operator?


Owner-operators are employers that employ themselves as CDL drivers, typically a single-driver operation.


Owner-operators who are leased to another motor carrier are placed in the motor carrier’s DOT testing program.


Owner-operators who operate under their own authority (private or for-hire) must be in a consortium to satisfy the random testing rules and are subject to other sections of Part 382, including the CDL Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse requirements in Subpart G.


2. Must owner-operators register with the Clearinghouse?


Yes, an owner-operator must create an account with the CDL Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse.


Owner operators (self-employed CDL drivers) who operate under their own USDOT Number must register as both the driver and employer Clearinghouse roles. They may register as both roles at the same time or add their company information after registering as a driver. The owner-operator must designate a consortium/third-party administrator as a part of the Clearinghouse registration process.


Those owner-operators who are leased as drivers to other motor carriers would need to register as a driver at minimum. The motor carrier who is leasing the driver would assume the role of employer in the Clearinghouse.


3. How is information about an owner-operator reported to the Clearinghouse?


Medical review officers report failed drug tests, while substance abuse professionals report completed evaluations and successful treatment. This information is communicated to the Clearinghouse regardless of whether the owner-operator is leased or independent.


How the employer’s recordkeeping obligations (§382.705) are fulfilled is based on whether the owner-operator is working under someone else’s authority:

  • For a leased owner-operator, the motor carrier under whose program the event occurred would have to comply with the employer’s Clearinghouse reporting requirements.
  • Owner-operators who are driving under their own authority must designate a consortium/third-party administrator in the Clearinghouse during the registration process to assume the employer’s reporting role.

4. Are owner-operators exempt from Clearinghouse queries?


No. An owner-operator who is a single-driver operation must comply with the Clearinghouse requirements imposed on both employers and employees including the annual queries. These individuals may request queries through a Clearinghouse account as both employer and employee.


However, a consortium/third-party administrator (C/TPA) may be contracted to conduct the queries on behalf of the owner-operator. The C/TPA would have to be registered with the Clearinghouse as a service agent for the owner-operator to designate. However, the owner-operator must have a contract with the C/TPA since designating them alone does not guarantee the service.


If the owner-operator is leased to another motor carrier, the motor carrier assumes the employer role by requesting a pre-employment query when the lease begins. The carrier will also request an annual query if the owner-operator is with them for at least a year.


To learn how J. J. Keller can help manage your Drug & Alcohol Testing Program, contact us today at 888.473.4638. 

You may also be interested in:

DOT Drug & Alcohol Testing Basics

When to Join a Drug & Alcohol Consoritum 

New Year, new beginning: A time to review your DOT testing program

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♦ Reporting drivers' alcohol and drug violations on your behalf

♦ Providing instructions to drivers on how they should register for the Clearinghouse database

♦ Tracking driver signatures and receipt of annual consent for all affected drivers

♦ Reviewing your current DOT Drug & Alcohol policy for accuracy and completeness

♦ Running limited queries on all CDL drivers according to the regulation 

♦ Running full queries as required due to the results found in the annual limited query 

♦ Conducting pre-employment queries on all potential new applicants


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