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Trucking Industry Takes Hard Look at Mandatory Drug Testing

ARLINGTON, VA — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) proposed drug and alcohol clearinghouse rule is not as solid as some in the trucking industry would like it to be. Several trucking and enforcement groups are asking the agency to issue an additional proposal to close up the wiggle room.

The American Trucking Associations (ATA), the National Private Truck Council, National Tank Truck Carriers, the Truckload Carriers Association, the American Bus Association and the United Motorcoach Association and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, have asked FMCSA to issue a Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (SNPRM) for the rule.

The current proposal would not require employers to report direct observations of drug or alcohol misuse, or admissions of misuse by employees, the groups say.

FMCSA Chief Anne Ferro commented: “Failure to capture these two types of violations undermines the purpose of the clearinghouse.”

The clearinghouse, a searchable database, is designed to prevent truck and bus drivers from hiding drug or alcohol violations and ensure that carriers are meeting their responsibility to test for substance abuse.

The FMCSA is proposing a system in which everyone associated with the federal drug and alcohol testing program will have to report test results, refusals to take a test and return-to-duty results. In addition, carriers will have to report their drivers’ traffic citations for driving under the influence.

Carriers will have to look at the data, with the driver’s permission, before hiring a driver.

FMCSA has extended the comment period from April 21 to May 21 in response to concerns raised by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA).

Comments on the proposal show that there is widespread support for the clearinghouse in principle but concern about the details.

We could make it better if…

  • The American Association of Medical Review Officers: clearinghouse requirements should apply to all safety-sensitive employees, not just drivers.
  • Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance: require clearinghouse queries more frequently than once a year and have the clearinghouse send notice of violations to state licensing bureaus.
  • The Medical Review Officer Certification Council: employers should be able to search the database without the employee’s approval. Drivers who have tested positive can continue working for a second employer after the first has cut them off.
  • J.B. Hunt: expand the rule’s coverage from heavy-duty trucks (26,000-plus pounds) down to medium duties rated at 10,000 pounds. [So that heavy-duty drivers who fail a test cannot go drive vehicles that are not covered under the drug and alcohol clearinghouse rule].
  • Schneider National: continue using drivers’ Social Security numbers for clearinghouse identity, rather than changing to commercial license number and state of issuance and allow background screening companies to access the clearinghouse on behalf of the carriers that retain their services. Also, accept hair tests since they are more reliable than urine tests.

Public comments can be made via:

• Federal eRulemaking Portal: www.regulations.gov
• Fax: 1-202-493-2251;
• Mail: Docket Management Facility (M-30), U.S. Department of Transportation, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC 20590-0001;
• Hand delivery: Same as mail address above, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays. The telephone number is 202-366-9329.

All comments must use the docket number FMCSA-2010-0031 or RIN 2126-AB18. 

With files from Oliver Patton.

 
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