Four years after Congress called for a national clearinghouse of truck driver drug and alcohol violations, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) on Monday will publish the final rule that establishes the database. The purpose of the central repository is to prevent CDL holders with positive test results from moving to different states where the records would not follow them.
“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.”
Once the clearinghouse is established, motor carrier employers will be required to query the system for information concerning current or prospective employees who have unresolved violations of the federal drug and alcohol testing regulations that prohibit them from operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV). It also requires employers and medical review officers to report drug and alcohol testing program violations.
The clearinghouse final rule's annual net benefits are an estimated $42 million, with crash reductions resulting from annual and pre-employment queries, the agency notes. This is noteworthy in that an impact of $100 million or more would make the final rule a “significant regulatory action,” meaning it would not go effect for 60 days. The clearinghouse rule is set to effect 30 days after publication, on Jan. 4—and would, therefore, be in effect before an expected regulatory moratorium by the Trump administration. Inauguration Day is Jan. 20.
Jack Van Steenburg, chief safety officer and assistant administrator for FMCSA, recently characterized the clearinghouse as “a winner for the industry.”
“It really prevents job hopping,” he said. “It’s a tool for all of us.
The American Trucking Assns. agrees. The final rule marks the end of nearly two decades of advocacy by ATA.
“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 final rule—with a January 2020 compliance date—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.
Additionally, motor carriers will be required to annually search the clearinghouse for current employees, and during the pre-employment process for prospective employees, to determine whether a driver violated drug or alcohol testing requirements with a different employer that would prohibit them from operating a CMV.
“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.”
In accordance with the Privacy Act of 1974 (5 U.S.C. § 552a), 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, according to FMCSA.
Congress directed FMCSA to establish a national drug and alcohol clearinghouse in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) highway bill.
The national drug and alcohol clearinghouse Final Rule goes into effect on January 4, 2017, with a compliance date of January 2020.