I wanted to share an update with you that was recently announced at the Truckload Carriers Association convention in Florida.
Since its debut in 2020, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse has registered more than 3 million drivers and 425,000 employers, including more than 225,000 owner-operators. As of late last year, 4.5 million CDL holders were queried within the first three years; more than 170,000 drivers were cited for violations.
The FMCSA will become more proactive by the end of March, notifying current employers if a company driver fails a pre-employment screening with another carrier, said FMCSA Administrator Robin Hutcheson. There was a loophole in the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse, which made it possible for a driver to have a drug or alcohol violation reported by another employer after a pre-employment query, but before an annual one—so the current employer might never be aware of it,"
This month, the clearinghouse will start notifying employers if there’s a change to a driver’s clearinghouse record up to 12 months following a query.
After a positive test, a truck driver goes into return-to-duty status and can't get behind the wheel until they've cleared that status, which includes a regimen of counseling and more testing that can go on for months or even years. Nearly 90,000 drivers haven't completed this process as of December, meaning they've given up on using their CDLs or are driving illegally.
Prospective fleets hiring new drivers no longer must ask driver applicants or their previous employers for their drug and alcohol testing history. As of Jan. 6, carriers can now conduct a free employment query within the clearinghouse.
Hutcheson said that she's met with the Department of Health and Human Services about expanding drug testing to include hair follicle testing. She anticipates that HHS will propose revised screening methods later this summer regarding whether hair testing is an acceptable screening method for results submitted to federal agencies, including the clearinghouse.
The agency is being as proactive as it can, but DOT including FMCSA, must follow Health and Human Services (HHS) mandatory guidelines for technical and scientific issues related to testing for controlled substances and HHS has not yet issued final guidelines for testing hair. It is anticipated proposed guidance will be available this summer.
She also reiterated DOT’s goal of zero fatalities on the nation’s highways and is focused on creating safe drivers, safer vehicles and better roadways. She asked the trucking industry to address the ‘root causes’ of unsafe driving in and around commercial vehicles that result in almost 5,000 deaths per year, including 800 commercial driver fatalities. “I cannot think of another place in the world that would accept those kinds of numbers of people dying in the workplace,” said Hutcheson.