Proposed National Database for Truck Driver History Will Aid in Hiring Process
and Increase Highway Safety
There is no question that illegal drugs, alcohol and even prescription medications can affect a driver’s ability to operate a motor vehicle. Judgment, inhibitions, depth perception and overall awareness are diminished by the physical and mental effects of such substances. The operation of a 5,000 pound, 18-wheeled commercial vehicle increases the magnitude of danger that an impaired driver poses to our nation’s highways and roads due to the sheer size and weight of these vehicles.
It is for this reason that Congress passed regulations back in 1991 to require companies that employ commercial drivers to conduct random drug and alcohol tests. As a further, more recent measure to keep unsafe truck drivers off the road, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (“FMCSA”) has proposed the establishment of a national database that will contain information about a commercial driver’s past drug and alcohol tests results. Making drug and alcohol history available in a single repository of information to potential employers across the country will be critical to improving highway safety.
Details of the Proposed Database
The proposed Commercial Driver’s License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse would require all commercial driver’s license holders to be listed. Under the proposal, FMCSA-regulated commercial transportation companies, Medical Review Officers, substance abuse professionals, and private third-party U.S. Department of Transportation drug and alcohol testing facilities would be required to submit information about a commercial driver who (1) fails a drug and/or alcohol test; (2) refuses to submit to a drug and/or alcohol test; or (3) has completed a substance abuse program and is legally qualified to return to commercial driving. Prospective employers would need a potential employee’s consent to access the clearinghouse, but could make such consent a prerequisite to applying for a driver position. A review of a commercial driver’s drug and alcohol history would become a standard and critical step in the hiring process.
Commercial Drivers’ Susceptibility to Drug and Alcohol Abuse Necessitates this Database
The nature of the commercial transportation industry, with its long periods of driving, overnight hauls, and general monotony of traveling across our nation’s highways leaves commercial drivers susceptible to both alcohol and substance abuse. According to the FMCSA, 2,095 drivers failed alcohol tests in 2013, down from 2,494 violations in 2012. However 1,240 drivers failed drug tests in 2013, up from 1,139 in 2012. Because alcohol and drug testing of commercial drivers is conducted largely on a random or special circumstance basis, it is impossible to provide an accurate statistic as to how many truck drivers operate while impaired. The national database will provide critical information to future employers that can keep past offenders out of the driver’s seat.