Feds issue final rules on national drug and alcohol database for semitrailer drivers

by Jeff Della Rosa (JDellaRosa@nwabj.com) 13 views 

Trucking organizations and executives strongly support a new federal rule creating a national database of drug and alcohol test results for commercial truck drivers.

On Friday (Dec. 2), the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced the final rule establishing the national drug and alcohol clearinghouse. The database will include information related to violations of U.S. Department of Transportation’s drug and alcohol tests for those with commercial driver’s licenses.

Trade organizations American Trucking Associations, The Trucking Alliance, and the Arkansas Trucking Association welcomed the announcement. Since the alliance was formed in 2011, developing a drug and alcohol clearinghouse for drivers has been a top goal for the organization. The announcement “marks a long awaited milestone to take drug users out of large trucks and off our nation’s highway, for the safety of all Americans,” Steve Williams, president of the Alliance for Driver Safety & Security, said in a news release.

Over nearly the past two decades, ATA has advocated for the creation of the national repository to close a loophole where drivers with a history of drug and alcohol abuse could be hired by a carrier without knowing of their history, according to a news release. The database will provide “the trucking industry with a powerful tool to keep drivers who have tested positive for drugs or alcohol out from behind the wheel of our trucks,” Bill Sullivan, ATA executive vice president of advocacy, said in ATA’s release.

“The trucking industry operates nationwide. State databases, like the one in Arkansas, were a good step in making highways safer,” said Arkansas Trucking Association President Shannon Newton. “But a national database was always the end goal. It is vital to closing loopholes and keeping alcohol and drug abusers off the road in Arkansas, and across America.”

Williams, who is also chairman and CEO of Little Rock-based Maverick USA, gave credit to former U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., for leading the effort to this day and also thanked the three co-sponsors of the clearinghouse legislation: U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and former U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La.

“All motorists have these current and former senators to thank for reducing risk on our highways,” Williams said.

The clearinghouse rule, mandated by the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), goes into effect in January, with compliance in January 2020. It will require carriers, medical review officers and substance abuse professionals to report to the clearinghouse drivers who’ve tested positive for drugs or alcohol, refused to take a test or underwent rehabilitation before returning to driving, according to the federal agency.

“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,” FMCSA Administrator Scott Darling said in a news release.

Along with fewer crashes, the rule’s expected net benefit is about $42 million annually. It’s expected to save carriers time by not having to ask about a prospective driver’s employment history for the previous three years.

“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,” ATA research analyst Abigail Potter said. “Reliving the industry of this burden will provide tremendous time and cost savings.”

In 2012, Congress directed the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to establish the national clearinghouse as required by the MAP-21 transportation law.

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