WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced a final rule that establishes a national drug and alcohol clearinghouse for commercial truck and bus drivers today.
According to the FMCSA, the clearinghouse database will serve as a central repository containing records of violations of its drug and alcohol testing program by commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders.
“An overwhelming majority of the nation’s freight travels by truck, and millions of passengers reach their destinations by bus, so creating a central, comprehensive, and searchable database of commercial motor vehicle drivers who violate federal drug and alcohol testing requirements has been a departmental priority,” said US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “This system will be a new technological tool that will make our roads safer.”
After the clearinghouse is put in place, FMCSA says carriers will be required to search the system for information concerning current or potential employess who have unresolved violations. It also requires employers and medical review officers to report drug and alcohol testing program violations.
The drug and alcohol clearinghouse final rule annual net benefits are an estimated $42 million, with crash reductions resulting from annual and pre-employment queries by FMCSA-regulated motor carriers.
“This is a major safety win for the general public and the entire commercial motor vehicle industry,” said FMCSA administrator Scott Darling. “The clearinghouse will allow carriers across the country to identify current and prospective drivers who have tested positive for drugs or alcohol, and employ those who drive drug- and alcohol-free. Drivers who test positive for drugs or alcohol will no longer be able to conceal those test results from employers and continue to drive while posing a safety risk to the driving public.”
The final rule requires motor carriers, medical review officers, third-party administrators, and substance abuse professionals to report information about drivers who:
· Test positive for drugs or alcohol;
· Refuse drug and alcohol testing; and
· Undergo the return-to-duty drug and alcohol rehabilitation process.
However, in accordance with the Privacy Act of 1974, a driver must grant consent before an employer can request access to that driver’s clearinghouse record and before FMCSA can release the driver’s clearinghouse record to an employer. After registering with the clearinghouse a driver can review his or her information at no cost.
The American Trucking Associations welcomed the announcement.
“ATA and its members are committed to safety,” said Bill Sullivan, ATA executive vice-president of advocacy. “Today’s announcement provides the trucking industry with a powerful tool to keep drivers who have tested positive for drugs or alcohol out from behind the wheel of our trucks.”
The ATA said it has long sought a national repository for drug and alcohol test results in order to close a loophole where a driver with a history of drug or alcohol abuse could be hired by a carrier without that carrier being informed of their history.
“Having information about a driver’s history is important to carriers when we make hiring decisions,” said ATA chairman Kevin Burch, president of Jet Express Inc., Dayton, Ohio. “This clearinghouse will give carriers like mine peace of mind to know we are putting safe – and sober – drivers behind the wheel and on the road.”
The clearinghouse rule is set to go into effect in January 2017 with a compliance date of January 2020.
“In addition to the benefits of keeping potentially risky drivers out of the trucking industry, the final clearinghouse rule will also improve the efficiency of the hiring process by ending the so-called ‘three-year lookback,’” said ATA research analyst Abigail Potter. “The clearinghouse, after its first three years of operation, will take the place of carriers querying drivers about their last three years of employment history. Relieving the industry of this burden will provide tremendous time and cost savings.”
To view the drug and alcohol clearinghouse final rule, click here.