Federal agency announces alcohol and drug clearinghouse for commercial drivers

vectorstock_2438639Many drivers in Illinois operate their vehicles while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This deadly practice has the potential to become a nightmare for countless individuals when the one driving illegally is operating a large commercial vehicle like a semi or bus. Federal regulations and industry standards have already been put in place to prohibit the use of any impairment-inducing substance while working on a rig, but little information is available on drivers’ past testing results. To fill the information gap, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has outlined and presented a potential rule that would create a drug and alcohol clearinghouse for commercial driver’s license holders throughout the nation.

About the clearinghouse

If the clearinghouse is approved as it is currently formulated, all FMCSA-regulated bus and truck companies would be required to record information about drivers who refuse to participate in federally mandated drug and alcohol testing, whether random or not, drivers that fail any alcohol or drug tests, and drivers that successfully complete substance abuse programs and have subsequently been cleared to return to their jobs as drivers. Other agencies who would also be responsible for reporting this information includes substance abuse professionals, private third-party USDOT testing laboratories, and medical review officers. Labs would submit annual information to the clearinghouse as well.

What prompted the rule?

Although many individuals in Chicago may have escaped experiencing a trucking accident, when they occur, they are often devastating collisions that end in serious injury and death. Any accident caused by the driver’s use of alcohol or drugs is not only illegal, it is completely preventable, and lives can be saved if further precautions are taken.

To ensure compliance with federal regulations, federal and state inspectors engage in random roadside testing of drivers and an inspection of their vehicles. The FMCSA found that in 2013 alone, 2,095 drivers had violated the alcohol provisions of federal regulations and 1,240 drivers were guilty of violating controlled substance provisions of federal regulations. In 2013, a total of 3,335 drivers had the potential to cause extensive damage that could have easily caused fatalities.

Anticipated effects of the rule

Currently, federal regulations require all commercial drivers to undergo testing to determine if they are using alcohol or drugs at any random moment, after a crash, or if a supervisor is suspicious that a specific driver has a problem with controlled substances. However, results of these tests are not available to all employers, so if a driver is let go from one company for failure to pass a drug test, the next company he works for may have no idea he has a history of drug use while on the job. A clearinghouse would make the information available to employers, allowing them to make informed decisions about the workers they hire as commercial drivers and helping to keep out those who are not fit for the road.

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