The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) finalized rules today establishing a national drug- and alcohol information clearinghouse for commercial drivers, effectively closing a loophole that prevented an employer from knowing if a driver had a history of drug and alcohol abuse at the time they were hired.
The rule, which goes into effect Jan. 4 but gives the industry a three-year implementation period, requires the creation of a central database containing records of violators of the Department of Transportation sub-agency's drug and alcohol testing program. Employers will be required to query the system for information about current or prospective employees with unresolved violations of federal drug and alcohol testing regulations that prohibit them from operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV), FMCSA said. It also requires employers and medical-review officers to report drug and alcohol testing program violations.
The final rule requires that information be provided about drivers who test positive for drugs or alcohol, who refuse drug and alcohol testing, and who undergo the drug and alcohol rehabilitation process required for a return to duty. Truck and bus carriers will also be required to annually search the clearinghouse for current employees, as well as during the pre-employment process for prospective employees, to determine whether a driver violated drug or alcohol testing requirements with a different employer, a scenario that would prohibit them from operating a commercial motor vehicle.
With a national repository for test results in place, "drivers who test positive for drugs or alcohol will no longer be able to conceal those test results from employers and continue to drive while posing a safety risk to the driving public," said FMCSA Administrator Scott Darling.
Federal regulations require employers to conduct drug testing as a condition of employment, as well as perform random drug and alcohol testing via urine samples. Employees who test positive on a DOT drug or alcohol test are prohibited from working in safety-sensitive positions, which include operating a commercial motor vehicle.
Congress directed FMCSA to establish a national drug and alcohol clearinghouse under the 2012 federal transport funding law known as the "Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act," or "Map-21."
The American Trucking Associations (ATA), which represents mostly large fleets, said the rule will end the so-called three-year look-back process, under which carriers had to perform sometimes-exhaustive research into a driver's prior three years of employment. "The clearinghouse, after its first three years of operation, will take the place of carriers querying drivers about their last three years of employment history," said Abigail Potter, a research analyst for the group. "Relieving the industry of this burden will provide tremendous time and cost savings."
Under federal privacy laws, a driver must agree to let an employer gain access to the driver's clearinghouse record before FMCSA can release the driver's clearinghouse record to an employer.