As part of the recently passed highway bill, Congress is mandating that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration establish a federal drug and alcohol clearinghouse that would contain a database of positive test results as well as refusals.
According to the bill, “Motor carriers will be required to query the clearinghouse when screening new driver applicants and annually thereafter. Third party service agents will be permitted to conduct these inquiries on behalf of motor carriers.” 1
The agency has 2 years to establish a clearinghouse, however, the FMCSA is said to have already been working on a proposal and is expected to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking this year.
The creation of a federal alcohol and drug clearinghouse has been a topic of discussion for years now. Concerns over whether truckers are legit when undergoing drug and alcohol testing prior to employment rose in 2008 when the Government Accountability Office conducted an investigation, discovering that drivers were able to dilute and adjust their urine samples so that they would test negative for drugs and alcohol, due to testing sites not following proper protocol.
Safety concerns grew even more by a loophole that permits drivers to disclose certain information on their resumes regarding past occurrences, including prior testing. In an effort to close this loophole and put safer drivers on the road, Senators Mark Pryor and John Boozman proposed The Safe Roads Act of 2011 last year.
That act vowed to do the following:
-Require employers to submit all data on tests in which they conducted or their refusal to take the test into the database. 2
-Employers must make sure that a test was conducted within the last three years and whether or not a driver was willing to partake or not. 2
-Employers must check their drivers in the database annually. 2
-Employers will be notified of any “positive test results that show up during the week after an employer’s inquiry.” 2
-Drivers must give their consent before their information is given out to an employer. 2
-Drivers will be notified of any activity regarding their records. 2
-Drivers need to maintain current/accurate records. 2
-Drivers need to undergo proper procedures if tested positive in order to return-to-duty. 2
The American Trucking Associations (ATA) has been encouraging a drug and alcohol clearinghouse for several years in an effort to prevent drivers from switching from one job to the next in an effort to dodge drug and alcohol testing. 3
In his recent letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood dated July 2, American Trucking Associations President (ATA) and CEO Bill Graves stated, “ATA is pleased that both DOT and FMCSA are committed to improving truck and highway safety through stepped-up enforcement and through focused drug and alcohol inspections. However, I continue to be very disappointed with the lack of tangible progress by DOT and FMCSA on a national drug and alcohol test results clearinghouse.” 3
As Graves notes, the agency recently took action in a sweep that occurred April 30th through May 11th which removed 287 drivers from the road and resulted in an additional 128 companies facing action. 5
Graves continued to state, “In March 2009, shortly after your arrival at DOT, FMCSA initiated a rulemaking project to establish a national clearinghouse which ATA had advocated, at this point, for 10 years. Subsequently, in 2010, FMCSA submitted another report to Congress concerning the need for a national clearinghouse, and included a timeline for completion of agency rulemaking. However, FMCSA failed to meet that timeline and, at this point, has not even issued a proposed rulemaking. Unhappy with FMCSA’s progress in developing a national clearinghouse, Congress just included language in the surface transportation reauthorization conference mandating the development of such a clearinghouse.” 4
The ATA, however, showed their gratitude towards President Obama and Congress after the signing of the highway bill last Friday. “It has been 30 months since we have had a true, long-term highway funding bill,” Graves said, “so today’s bill signing is a good thing for trucking and for our national economy.” 6
What are your views regarding the mandatory creation of a federal alcohol and drug clearing house by Congress? List your comments below.
Read ATA CEO Bill Graves’ letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood regarding the clearinghouse at http://www.truckline.com/AdvIssues/Litigation/Documents/DOC070212.pdf
Don’t forget to stay tuned for an upcoming article on the effects of the mandatory usage of electronic onboard recorders on all trucks.