Drug and alcohol clearinghouse rule becoming reality: Agency announces proposed rule set for publication

By James Jaillet on

drug testA proposed rule establishing a Commercial Driver’s License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse was announced Feb. 12 by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The rule will establish a database of CDL holders that have failed or refused a drug test and require carriers to upload such information and query the database when hiring drivers.

The agency is set to publish the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the Federal Register this week — Feb. 14, according to a DOT report from Feb. 10.

The establishment of the clearinghouse is required by the MAP-21 highway funding act. The rule cleared the White House’s Office of Management and Budget Jan. 28, paving the way for publication.

An implementation date for the database has not yet been announced.

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“We are leveraging technology to create a one-stop verification point to help companies hire drug and alcohol-free drivers,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro. “This proposal moves us further down the road toward improving safety for truck and bus companies, commercial drivers and the motoring public everywhere.”

The American Trucking Associations has voiced strong support for the rule, calling it “long overdue.”

In addition to reporting failed drug tests and test refusals and querying for new hires, carriers would be required on an annual basis to query the database for current driver employees. They’d also be required to report traffic citations for drivers cited driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Medical Review Officers, Substance Abuse Professionals and consortia and third-party administrators would also be required to report positive drug or alcohol tests and test refusals to the DOT.

When querying the database, however, carriers would be required to obtain written consent from a driver before querying the database and for access to information in the clearinghouse.

FMCSA says it hopes to have two levels of queries — full queries and limited queries. Full queries would allow carriers to access to see reportable information in a driver’s record and would require written consent from a driver.

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The limited query would not allow carriers access to specific reportable information, but would only allow whether there is information in the database about a driver.

The limited query would be primarily used for the annual current employee screenings, FMCSA says, while the full query would be for pre-employment queries.

If a driver refuses to allow consent to query the database, he or she could not perform “safety-sensitive functions,” like driving.

FMCSA will be required to report information back to a carrier within seven days of a query.

Carriers will be required to submit their DOT numbers and the name of the person or persons they authorize to access the clearinghouse, and that information would be updated annually, per the rule.

Owner-operators, who are required to participate in a consortium for random testing, must identify to FMCSA the consortium or third-party administrator it uses to test and authorize them to submit information on any driver, including themselves, to the clearinghouse.

Drivers will be allowed to appeal results by requesting administrative review by submitting a written request and a written explanation of why he or she thinks the clearinghouse has erred. FMCSA would then make a decision within 60 days.

If a driver successfully completes the return-to-duty process, positive results will remain accessible for either three or five years, per FMCSA’s proposed rule.

If a driver does not complete the return-to-duty process, the information will remain in the clearinghouse indefinitely.

If in a situation that a DUI arrest does not lead to a conviction, FMCSA would be required to remove a driver’s information from the database within two business days.

FMCSA says the rule will result in a$187 million in annual societal benefits, but it will also cost the industry about $186 million annually, it says. Carriers will spend $28 million annually to perform the required annual query and $10 million in pre-employment queries, FMCSA estimates, but the bulk of the spending comes in $101 million in drivers going through the return-to-duty process.

The agency will accepting public comment on the proposed rule 60 days from its publication in the Federal Register.

Public comments can be made via the Federal eRulemaking Portal at regulations.gov; via fax, 202-493-2251; by mail, Docket Management Facility, U.S. Department of Transportation, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE, Washington, D.C., 20590; or hand delivered to the same address. All public comments must use the docket number FMCSA-2010-0031.

James Jaillet

James Jaillet is the News Editor for CCJ and Overdrive. Reach him at jjaillet@randallreilly.com.

7 comments
Mike Meredith
Mike Meredith

Texas already has a great program and you know, it does not cost the carrier anything to check. This is something that is needed nationwide but come on, just another way for the feds to dig deeper into the pockets of trucking companies that are having to watch every penny now. I sure agree with David McQueen when he talked about doing things the Obama way. You know a fish stinks from the head back.

Earl
Earl

When this clearinghouse goes up, are these companies required to upload information on failed drug tests and refusals from it's employees in the past also...or just record and upload all failed tests from the day it becomes law forward?

DrugTestGuide
DrugTestGuide

Keeping records on people who refuse a drug or alcohol test? Don't we still have the 5th amendment in this country? How big brother can you get. Trucking companies should implement impairment testing instead of the Orwellian and ineffective drug testing. There's a financial incentive: former drug warriors (eg Bensinger DuPont) have started drug testing companies and push policy in their direction. @DrugTestGuide 

 

David McQueen
David McQueen

Well, here it is, Feb. 14, and nothing about the clearing house db has been published in the Federal Register.  Reality check:  the federal government does NOT want to jump through all those hoops (required by 5 U.S.C.) in order to legally issue new regulations .  They want to use the Obama method of "government by fiat"  (no, not the Italian car company).  Just issue new regulations willy-nilly and buy more ammo (just in case the great unwashed decide to get frisky).

Toni
Toni

Again double work, we are already doing this thru our wonderful State of Calif.  How much are they going to charge us..first and foremost! 

Amish Trucker
Amish Trucker

I'm going to say this again.  By utilizing this database plus the PSP report, carriers should no longer (or within 3 years) have to send requests for information to previous employers.  I am hoping that is part of the NPRM.  If it is, there should be cost savings to the carrier as checking 2 databases per driver should be less expensive than the materials and labor spent sending out requests or purchasing from a 3rd party. 

I am assuming the societal benefit is going to come from the elimination of Carriers or owner operators who are not testing, not responding to requests for information or are allowing offenders to operate CMV's for their company.  It appears FMCSA is going to cross check DOT numbers with membership in a consortium or use of a TPA. 

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 @Amish Trucker

 The PSP report only tells me that a driver was inspected, or had a recordable accident where enforcement made a report, and from the way it sounds this data base will only tell me about failed or refused controlled substance test. Neither report will give me there full work history, or any other information like: was this person a good employee, did they have any non DOT recordable accidents, why did they leave your employment, did they abandon the truck. It appears to me that both the PSP and this data base are good add-on tools but should not take the place of past employment checks.