Alcohol and Drug Background Checks for Bus Drivers – The End of Manual Inquiries?


Federal regulations are changing the way a district must conduct alcohol and drug background checks for prospective Commercial Driver License (CDL) drivers.  Beginning January 6, 2023, a school district must use the “Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse” to access real-time information regarding a CDL holder.

Ohio school districts currently have to comply with both state and federal regulations to ensure that a prospective driver is qualified.  This includes a physical, a criminal background check (federal and state), a motor vehicle record check, pre-service training, and alcohol and drug testing.[1] 

Districts are also mandated to determine if the prospective driver had a drug and alcohol violation in the previous three years with a previous employer regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation (i.e., nearly all motor carrier operators).[2]  This generally has required an electronic inquiry using the federal Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse and a manual inquiry with the applicant’s previous employers over the last three years.

Now, federal regulations require that only an electronic inquiry of the Clearinghouse is needed. A school district must register for an account and can then purchase queries (currently $1.25 each). [3]  A prospective or current driver can also register for an account.  The only time a manual inquiry would be needed is if the applicant has previously worked for an employer subject to different federal regulations (e.g., mass transit employee whose employer was subject to Federal Transit Administration).

Going forward, transportation supervisors should ensure they are checking the Clearinghouse and continue to monitor ODE’s Office of Pupil Transportation for additional guidance.[4]


[1] OAC 3301-83-06(B); see also Ohio Department of Education’s Qualifications Requirements for On-vehicle Transportation Staff.

[2] 49 CFR § 391.23.

[3] Access the Clearinghouse at:

[4] See Ohio Dep’t. of Education, School Transportation FAQs (updated regularly).

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