Pending Bill to Address Drug/Alcohol Testing of CDL Drivers
For as long as I’ve been in the trucking industry, I’ve been a serious advocate about the need to close a dangerous “loophole” in the system when it comes to truck driver drug and alcohol testing. This “loophole” exists due to the lack of a centralized database, or clearinghouse, to collect positive or refused drug and alcohol test results among CDL drivers.
The current system relies both on drivers to self-report their failed tests and on previous employers to provide test results to future employers. When a driver moves from one trucking company to another, some positive drug and alcohol test results are not being discovered by the hiring company because these positive results are self-reported, and not centrally tracked. As a result, the hiring company may not be aware of a driver’s past positive drug test results and could be hiring a driver who has not been evaluated, treated and cleared to return-to-duty by a substance abuse professional.
For years, Congress and trucking interests have recognized the need to create a national clearinghouse; however, it wasn’t until a 2008 White House GAO investigation found serious flaws in the federal drug testing system for truck drivers – an investigation that revealed a system vulnerable to manipulation and the use of urine altering substances - that the need to address this “loophole” became painfully obvious.
It now appears that momentum is gaining for something to be done. Just last month, the Safe Roads Act of 2011 (S.754), introduced by Sens. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and John Boozman (R-Ark.), would close this “loophole” by creating a central database, or clearinghouse, that employers would have to check during the hiring process for drug and alcohol test failures. If passed, the bill would give the Department of Transportation two years to establish the clearinghouse.
What exactly does this mean for employers and commercial drivers?
- Need to submit all data on tests in which they conducted or a driver’s failure to cooperate into the database, or clearinghouse
- Need to make sure that a test was conducted within the last three years and whether or not a driver was willing to partake or not
- If a driver is hired, employers will need to check that driver in the database every year
- Will be notified of any positive test results that show up during the week after an employer’s inquiry
- Must give their consent before their information is given out to an employer
- Will be notified of any activity regarding their records
- Need to maintain current/accurate records
- Need to follow proper procedures if tested positive in order to return-to-duty
The FMCSA has indicated their plans to propose a rule in November that would do much the same as the Safe Roads Act of 2011, however details of that proposal are not yet available. Although possible that the bill could move independently, it is also possible that it would be attached to the pending reauthorization of the federal highway program. That legislation is now being drafted by congressional committees with the aim of action later this year, although passage is by no means assured.
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