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

user-gravatar Headshot
Updated Feb 13, 2014

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.

“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.

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.