Getting problem drug and/or alcohol users off the road permanently is the main reason behind the push by the American Trucking Assns. 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 [commercial driver’s license], 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 ofconsulting firm REI Safety Services, told FleetOwner.
“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 towards 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 Gov. 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.
“The trucking industry is a national industry. State by state action will result in a patchwork quilt of differing reporting requirements by different people, with different commercial driver licensing actions or outcomes for truck drivers depending upon which state issued their license,” Graves said. “A national solution is the optimal approach to addressing this issue.”
Drug and alcohol violations, it should be noted, are extremely low among the truck driver population today. According to a study compiled by Richard Gruberg with the analysis division, office of information management of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), it’s estimated 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 REI’s 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. At the same time,” he added, “companies who take shortcuts and don't perform drug and alcohol diligence should be severely penalized.”