Getting problem drug and/or alcohol users off the road permanently is the main reason behind the push by the American Trucking Assns. (ATA) to create a centralized clearinghouse for positive drug- and alcohol-testing results among truck drivers.
“If you compare [this approach] to what was done with the CDL, you now have one licensing system that is still administered by the states, [but where] a lot of the abuses and duplicate licenses have gone away,” truck safety expert Bob Inderbitzen, president of consulting firm REI Safety Services, told Fleet Owner.
“I don't know what a clearinghouse would be, but it seems that if you had one national database that the states and individual companies fed into, it would go a long way toward eliminating the potential of putting one of these drivers on the road,” he noted.
“ATA and its members believe that state-based reporting efforts are a good first step, but the optimal solution is a national clearinghouse,” said Bill Graves, ATA's president & CEO, who is urging Congress to authorize and fund such a clearinghouse. Currently, five states have instituted a drug and alcohol clearinghouse, he said.
Drug and alcohol violations, it should be noted, are extremely low among the truck driver population today. FMCSA estimates that 2% of CDL holders use controlled substances, with 0.2% using alcohol — registering at least a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.04 — while performing their duties.
“I personally don't think you will see much improvement over the 2% you are seeing now, because there will always be some noise level of abuse that will be hard to eliminate,” said Inderbitzen. “I'm not sure that goes away by establishing a clearinghouse; [the 2% rate] really gets lower by making sure drivers who abuse drugs and/or alcohol have their CDLs pulled so they never drive a commercial vehicle again,” he added. “At the same time, companies who take shortcuts and don't perform drug and alcohol diligence should be severely penalized.”