Merriam-Webster's dictionary defines the term toleration as “the act of allowing something.” Tolerance is defined as “having sympathy for beliefs or practices.” Now that you are aware of the definitions of toleration and tolerance, it should come as no surprise that the trucking industry has stood firm on its long-standing zero-tolerance policy regarding drugs and alcohol. The term zero tolerance means that “there is no room for acceptance, allowance or sympathy,” so in terms of drug and alcohol use the industry has just said “no” for years.
Within the past few years, it has been noted that a regulatory loophole exists within the current CDL drug-testing protocol that allows drivers that test positive to move on to another carrier without the new carrier receiving knowledge of previous test results. Without that carrier knowing if any positive drug or alcohol test results exist, the carrier could potentially hire a driver with a drug-filled past, thus unknowingly breaking its zero-tolerance policy.
Recently, Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) introduced the Safe Roads Act of 2011, a bill that would develop a national clearinghouse of commercial truck drivers' drug test results. This clearinghouse would enable carriers across the country to access the test results of any active CDL holder for the previous five years. This tool would allow a carrier to more thoroughly screen potential drivers for past use and potentially field a safer team of drivers to operate on our roadways. What is surprising to me about this bill is that even though it was introduced on April 7, only four co-sponsors have signed on. Given that our industry comprises roughly 1 in 14 U.S. jobs and has repeatedly asked for such a bill, the Safe Roads Act should garner strong support from congressional leaders that represent trucking industry constituents across the country.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is not far behind with a proposed rulemaking regarding this very issue. Scheduled to be issued in late spring, and I use the term “scheduled” very loosely, this proposal would also create a clearinghouse for positive drug test results. The industry again waits with baited breath for a program that would benefit not only carriers, but the overall public too, by preventing drivers with positive drug test results from operating on our highways.
In addressing these legislative and regulatory matters, why delay a rulemaking that would only benefit the industry and the general public? Trucking has had a zero-tolerance policy on drugs and alcohol for years, and it is a policy to which carriers steadfastly stand by and unwaveringly adhere to as thoroughly as they are able to. While the industry applauds the recent efforts of Sen. Pryor and FMCSA, these efforts should have been made years ago and carriers provided with even greater tools to improve upon their already record-low accident rates.
With two very possible vehicles to put a national clearinghouse for drug testing on the map, I would encourage each and every carrier to voice its support on these much-needed efforts. A clearinghouse for drug testing would assist everyone in making our highways safer and holding firm on the zero-tolerance policy that we as an industry pride ourselves on and strive to uphold every day.
David Heller, CDS, is director of safety and policy for the Truckload Carriers Assn. He is responsible for interpreting and communicating industry-related regulations and legislation to the membership of TCA. Send comments to [email protected].