DOT Proposes Drug/Alcohol Testing Database for Commercial Drivers

Employers would be required to check clearinghouse before hiring

By Roy Maurer March 10, 2014

The Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) wants to create a national database of commercial truck and bus drivers’ drug and alcohol testing histories for employers to check before hiring new drivers.

According to the announcement, the proposed rule, issued Feb. 20, 2014, would require businesses to check the drug and alcohol testing histories of applicants in the prescreening phase and require employers to annually check their current drivers. The database would record all positive drug and alcohol test results, as well as drivers’ refusals to be tested.

“The clearinghouse would help improve roadway safety by making it easier to determine whether a truck or bus driver is prohibited from operating a commercial motor vehicle for failing to comply with federal drug and alcohol regulations, including mandatory testing,” the agency explained.

Congress requested the proposed rule in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, enacted in 2012.

The trucking industry has long supported a national database. “ATA has been a strong advocate for the creation of this process to help protect motorists since 1999,” said American Trucking Associations President and CEO Bill Graves. “The clearinghouse will eventually help close a loophole that allows violators of the drug and alcohol regulations to escape the consequences of their actions.”

Current Regulations

Today, federal regulations require employers to conduct a pre-employment screening of a commercial driver’s qualifications based upon his or her driving record. According to the FMCSA, some drivers may not give an honest and complete employment history for verification purposes. They may not disclose positive drug or alcohol test results, refusals to be tested, or other prior violations related to drug and alcohol testing. The clearinghouse would prevent commercial drivers from hiding drug or alcohol violations and ensure that carriers were meeting their substance-abuse-testing responsibility.

Rule Provisions

Under the proposed rule, FMCSA-regulated truck and bus companies, medical review officers, substance-abuse professionals, and private, third-party drug- and alcohol-testing laboratories would have to record information about a driver who:

  • Failed a drug or alcohol test.
  • Refused to submit to a drug or alcohol test.
  • Successfully completed a substance-abuse program and was legally qualified to return to duty.

In addition, companies would have to report their drivers’ traffic citations for driving under the influence. Private drug- and alcohol-testing laboratories also would be required to report annually on the testing activities of FMCSA-regulated motor carrier employers for whom they have provided testing services. This information would be used to identify companies that do not have a testing program.

To ensure the privacy of employees and applicants, each commercial driver would need to give consent before an employer could access the database.

The FMCSA stipulated that individuals who refused to consent could still be employed by a truck or bus company—but not in a safety-sensitive position, including commercial motor vehicle operator.

Expanding Regulatory Oversight

Under federal safety regulations, employers must conduct pre-employment drug testing, post-accident testing, random drug and alcohol testing, and reasonable-suspicion testing, as well as return-to-duty testing and follow-up testing for drivers who test positive or otherwise violate drug and alcohol program requirements. The regulations require truck and bus companies to randomly test 50 percent of their drivers for drugs and 10 percent for alcohol each year.

The FMCSA primarily monitors compliance through compliance reviews and new-entrant safety audits. In 2010 the agency conducted new-entrant audits and compliance reviews of approximately 50,000 motor carriers, a small percentage of the more than 520,000 such employers subject to federal drug and alcohol testing requirements. “As a result, many motor carrier employers that do not have a testing program may go undetected,” the agency said, which prompted the proposed rule.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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