Trucking groups push for closing ‘loophole’ in drug and alcohol clearinghouse rule

A coalition of trucking and enforcement groups says the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration didn’t make its proposed drug and alcohol clearinghouse rule as comprehensive as it should have, and the groups want the agency to issue an amendment to the rule adding a requirement that carriers report observation of “misuse” to the clearinghouse.

In a comment posted on the proposed rule — which has a week left in its public comment period —  seven groups, including the American Trucking Associations, the Truckload Carriers Association and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, have asked FMCSA to issue a Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the rule.

They want the SNPRM to require employers to “report all instances of actual knowledge of misuse, including direct observations of misuse and acknowledgements of misuse, to the proposed clearinghouse,” according to the letter.

The Commercial Driver’s License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse rule was proposed in February. Upon its effective date, likely late next year or early 2016, it will establish a database of CDL holder who have failed or refused to take a drug or alcohol test.

Carriers will be required to submit such information to the database and will be required to query the database when hiring a new driver. It will also be required to query the database annually for current drivers. Click here to read CCJ’s coverage of the proposed rule.

The comment period was extended from April 21 to May 21 in response to an Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association request. OOIDA cited ATA’s push for the requested expansion of the rule as one of its reasons. OOIDA says it is still reviewing the request, but the association says its current stance is that “only positive test results should be documented.”

“A driver’s permanent record should not be tainted by unverifiable accusations or assertions,” according to a statement from OOIDA.

The letter from ATA and others calls the lack of the requirement for carriers to report observational data a “longstanding loophole” in current regulations and one that would extend to the clearinghouse rule.

“Failing to capture [knowledge of use or direct observation] undermines the purpose of the clearinghouse,” the letter reads. “Under FMCSA’s current proposal, a driver could be observed engaging in misconduct or could actually admit to misconduct and successfully seek employment elsewhere.”

To see all comments on the rule or to make a public comment, visit regulations.gov and use the docket number FMCSA-2011-0031. The comment period ends May 21.