New Trucker Drug Use Database Will Save Lives, Close Loophole

2569_16_blog_truckerdatabaseAfter nearly a two year delay, a new federal rule is expected to be signed into law that would establish a national database of commercial truck drivers who either failed or refused to take a drug test.

This new federal resource, officially known as the Commercial Driver’s License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse – is needed. Getting truckers with drug and alcohol problems – especially repeat offenders – off the road would save lives.

Trucking companies, by and large, have supported the rule because a national clearinghouse would make it easier for employers to do background checks before hiring new drivers.

According to safety advocates, the database also would close an existing loophole in federal law that allows truck drivers who have been fired for substance abuse to continue operating commercial motor vehicles. Under current rules, a driver who fails a drug test at one company is supposed to voluntarily report this information to the next company he applies to. Yeah, as if a trucker in desperate need of a job is going to voluntarily share this information.

Concerns Raised Over Potential Database Abuse by Employers

On the other hand, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), which represents some 150,000 truck drivers, claims the database could be used as a weapon against drivers. For example, a trucking company could use the threat of making a false report to the database as a way to punish or retaliate against drivers, effectively ending their careers. Or, the company could make taking a drug test so difficult that a driver would have a problem complying, for instance, deliberately scheduling a test at a time that it knows the driver will be hundreds of miles away on a job.

Drivers Must Consent to be Included in Database

The rule also includes the following:

  • Truck drivers must give written consent to be added to the database before submitting to a drug test
  • If a drug test is positive, drivers must complete a “return-to-duty” process, which includes evaluation and monitoring by a substance abuse specialist
  • A positive drug test will remain in the database for three to five years. However, if a driver fails to complete the evaluation and monitoring process, a failed drug test will remain in the database forever
  • Truck drivers are allowed to appeal a positive drug test if a possible error has been made. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) would then review the appeal and make a decision within 60 days

Seems to me the benefits outweigh its potential for abuse. Whoever is next in the Oval Office should sign this as quickly as possible.