The truck driver who killed seven motorcyclists on a New Hampshire roadway in June 2019 tested positive for narcotics post-crash. That’s after he’d recently been arrested for substance abuse offenses after a roll over crash in a commercial motor vehicle.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is committed to making sure drivers like this do not slip through the cracks again.

Beginning January 6, 2020, commercial driver’s license (CDL) employers (including school bus and limousine operators, municipal fleet operators and construction companies), medical review officers, third-party administrators, substance abuse professionals and state drivers license agencies are all required to report failed and refused drug tests for CDL drivers to the new FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse.

The online database will provide real-time access to information about drug and alcohol violations, making it more difficult for drivers to conceal violations from perspective employers. Employers will be required to query the Clearinghouse both during pre-employment screenings, and annually to ensure that their drivers are still eligible to perform safety-sensitive functions.

The Clearinghouse will maintain information on violations beginning with those occurring on or after January 6, 2020, and maintain up to five years of data on violations or until the return-to-duty process is complete, whichever is longer. Employers are required to submit reports of failed or refused drug tests within three business days.

Until January 6, 2023, when three years of data on violations is stored in the Clearinghouse, employers are still required to conduct both electronic queries and traditional manual inquiries (i.e. Safety Performance History form) with a driver’s previous employers to determine a CDL driver’s history of violations.

Getting employers up to speed

The FMCSA Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse is a first step in creating a high level of transparency across multiple transportation stakeholders to heighten safety on U.S. roadways. Consider the following four ways to meeting FMCSA Clearinghouse requirements.

  1. Educate drivers. Make sure drivers understand that although cannabis use is legal in some form in 33 states and the District of Columbia, it is not legal for truck drivers on the job. Nor is it legal to transport the drug in the cab of their commercial vehicle, an action they can be charged for. Drivers should also be reminded that it is never legal to be under the influence of Schedule I substances, including cocaine, opioids and PCP are never legal while driving a commercial motor vehicle - even when prescribed by a doctor.
  2. Educate staff. Train managers/supervisors to identify drivers who are at risk. Reasonable suspicion training educates managers to be able to recognize signs when a driver may be under the influence.
  3. Have a substance abuse policy in place, and follow it consistently. Many carriers have legacy or antiquated policies and procedures when it comes to drugs and alcohol, including blanket statements like: “No illegal drugs may be used.” In many states, drivers would still be able to use marijuana with such a policy. Revisit your drug and alcohol policies to make sure they’re current. Educate your drivers, staff and insurance carrier on your policy so that everyone is on the same page. Stipulate specific consequences for drivers who violate the policy, and make sure that it is enforced at all times.
  4. Engage a labor attorney. Consult a labor attorney to ensure that your substance abuse policy is in compliance with state and federal laws. For example, when individual fleet policies go beyond FMCSA requirements with a “zero tolerance policy,” it may violate other state or federal regulations depending on how it is administered. Similarly, collective bargaining agreements with labor unions may include rules on substance abuse testing and remedial actions that are no longer in compliance with the regulations, including the new Clearinghouse rules.

Contact your HUB Transportation specialist for more information on getting your drug testing and reporting up to speed ahead for Clearinghouse reporting.