Carriers Air Concerns about Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse
May 12, 2014
There’s a big loophole in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s proposal to create a drug and alcohol clearinghouse, according to transportation and enforcement interests.
The proposal would not require employers to report direct observations of drug or alcohol misuse, or admissions of misuse by employees, say American Trucking Associations, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance and several other groups.
“Failure to capture these two types of violations undermines the purpose of the clearinghouse,” they say in a May 5 letter to agency chief Anne Ferro.
The groups, joined by the National Private Truck Council, National Tank Truck Carriers, the Truckload Carriers Association, the American Bus Association and the United Motorcoach Association, are asking the agency to issue a supplemental proposal that includes these requirements.
The clearinghouse is designed to prevent truck and bus drivers from hiding drug or alcohol violations and ensure that carriers are meeting their responsibility to test for substance abuse.
The agency is proposing a system in which everyone associated with the federal drug and alcohol testing program will have to report test results, refusals to take a test and return-to-duty results. In addition, carriers will have to report their drivers’ traffic citations for driving under the influence.
All of this will go into the clearinghouse, a searchable database. Carriers will have to look at the data, with the driver’s permission, before they hire a driver.
Comments on the proposal show that there is widespread support for the clearinghouse in principle but concern about the details.
CVSA, which represents the police officers who enforce the federal safety rules, said the proposal would be improved by requiring more frequent clearinghouse queries than once a year and by having the clearinghouse send notice of violations to state licensing bureaus.
The Medical Review Officer Certification Council said that employers should be able to query the database without the employee’s approval. Drivers who have tested positive can continue working for a second employer after the first has cut them off, the council said.
J.B. Hunt wants the agency to expand the rule’s coverage from heavy-duty trucks (26,000-plus pounds) down to medium duties rated at 10,000 pounds.
The company’s fear is that heavy-duty drivers who fail a test will migrate down to the vehicles that are not covered.
Schneider National suggested that the agency continue using drivers’ Social Security numbers for clearinghouse identity, rather than changing to commercial license number and state of issuance.
Drivers can have multiple CDL numbers, but only one Social Security number, said Don Osterberg, Senior Vice President of Safety and Security, in comments posted on the clearinghouse docket.
He also recommended that the final rule allow background screening companies to access the clearinghouse on behalf of the carriers that retain their services.
In addition, the clearinghouse should accept the results of hair tests, Osterberg said.
Hair testing is significantly more reliable than urine testing and carriers should be allowed to share that information, he said.
The American Association of Medical Review Officers said the clearinghouse requirements should apply to all safety-sensitive employees, not just drivers.
Like Schneider, the group opposes the change of identifier from Social Security number to CDL number.
FMCSA is accepting comments on the proposal until May 21, although the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has asked for an extension.