Sensible regulation

Jan. 5, 2017
The drug and alcohol clearinghouse rule will improve safety

Nothing surprises me more than my conversations with TCA members. They are active, engaged and thoroughly look to gather as much information as they can to improve their fleet operations and the safety practices that accompany them.

I often find myself on the phone with members in the evening, when I have some free time to actively engage in a lively discussion with them—and this time was no different. I recently had a conversation with a member who was curious as to the workings of the recent drug and alcohol clearinghouse final rule that was issued to the public by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) on Friday, Dec. 2.

This particular member believes in the rule but wanted to know more. The member even suggested the development of a webinar to instruct TCA members on how to comply with the rule as more information and the corresponding process shakes out over the next three years.

So, did you get the hint? Yes, we have a rule regarding a drug and alcohol clearinghouse. While it will be a place to store positive drug tests, refusals to submit to testing, and names of those who undergo the return-to-duty and alcohol rehabilitation process, there is also a three-year waiting period. During that time, the clearinghouse will be designed, fees can be established, and even acceptable standards pertaining to hair testing can be incorporated.

We as an industry waited on this with baited breath; unfortunately, we will have to wait a bit longer.  The wait will be worth it, though, as the clearinghouse will allow the industry to truly investigate the drug testing history of prospective drivers looking for a career with a fleet.

Quite obviously, accolades are bestowed upon our industry and the agency for promulgating a rule that makes sense. Timelines notwithstanding, good things do come to those who wait—and that is what continually surprises me about TCA members.

It seems as if we constantly tout ourselves as the most regulated, deregulated industry in the country. In fact, the cumulative impact of regulations recently made the American Transportation Research Institute’s annual Top 10 list. In other words, our industry constantly suffers the burden of having what appears to be a tremendous amount of regulations placed upon it.

“Finally, here’s a rule that makes carriers safer and more efficient at the same time.”

- David Heller

When a rule comes along that makes sense, our industry embraces it—and even waits with anticipation knowing that it will go a long way toward helping fleets become safer.

Yes, the clearinghouse has the potential to do just that by making our industry safer by closing a previously existing loophole that allows drivers who test positive for drugs or alcohol, or both, to find a job merely days after their system clears out.

While a rule does exist for a carrier to investigate its prospective new hires through a previous history inquiry from past employers, this rule will replace that one, which was dependent on a carrier sharing that information. This new rule provides motor carriers and FMCSA with the necessary tools to identify drivers who are prohibited from operating a commercial motor vehicle and ensure that these drivers receive the required treatments prior to resuming their duties as a driver. Finally, here’s a rule that makes carriers safer and more efficient at the same time. 

Our industry either ended 2016 on a positive note (pun somewhat intended) or started 2017 with a rule that makes sense for all—and even our carrier members believe that. Our industry is not made up of naysayers and anti-regulationists. In fact, it’s quite the contrary; our industry believes in rules that make sense. We know trucking is burdened with regulations; we live that every day. We also know that there are rules that work, rules that are needed, and rules that are designed to have a positive impact in the world of safety and this is one of them.

Nice job FMCSA. We look forward to this rollout.

About the Author

David Heller

David Heller is the senior vice president of safety and government affairs for the Truckload Carriers Association. Heller has worked for TCA since 2005, initially as director of safety, and most recently as the VP of government affairs. Before that, he spent seven years as manager of safety programs for American Trucking Associations.

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