FMCSA Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse “Might Be Too Successful” Where Nationwide Truck Driver Shortage is Concerned


FMCSA Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse “Might Be Too Successful” Where Nationwide Truck Driver Shortage is Concerned

FMCSA Clearinghouse Popular and Effective

While the trucking industry almost “unequivocally loves” the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse – an online database that gives employers real-time access to information about holders of commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs) and commercial learner’s permits (CLPs) covered by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) drug and alcohol testing program – it “might be too successful, at least where the nationwide truck driver shortage is concerned,” according to a FleetOwner article.

Since the Clearinghouse took effect on January 6, 2020, CDL/CLP holders have recorded 106,037 drug violations and 2,416 alcohol violations, figures that include people who refused drug and alcohol testing and were disqualified from driving. When CDL/CLP holders test positive for a banned substance and the result is recorded in the Clearinghouse, they must cease “safety-sensitive” tasks like operating a commercial vehicle until they go through and clear the return-to-duty (RTD) process. 

The FleetOwner article explained that marijuana was by far the most popular drug among CDL/CLP holders after January 2020 with 58,904 positive results. Other drugs included cocaine, methamphetamine, amphetamines, various opioids, morphine, codeine (commonly used in prescription cough syrup but widely abused), 6-acetylmorphone (a metabolite of heroin), phencyclidine (known as PCP or angel dust), MDMA (ecstasy or “Molly”), and the psychedelic drug MDA (“Sally”).

FMCSA Clearinghouse and Trucker Shortage

While the American Trucking Associations (ATA) estimated the trucker shortage is currently 80,000 drivers and could reach 160,000 drivers by 2030, the positives of the Clearinghouse clearly outweigh the drivers disqualified. “If it’s a choice between an empty truck and having a drug-impaired driver, we’ll take an empty truck,” Dan Horvath, VP of safety policy for the ATA, told FleetOwner in an interview. “We are absolutely a champion of the [Clearinghouse]. We advocated for it before its inception.”

In addition, Horvath pointed out that the federal Clearinghouse is not intended to end the careers of drivers but to instead “get them on the path to sobriety – at least when they are behind the wheel of a truck (a typical Class 8 weighs at least 33,000 lb. empty and even more loaded) hurtling down the highway,” according to the FleetOwner article. The federal Clearinghouse does have “an impact on the driver shortage, [but excluded drivers] can maybe come back to help us,” he conceded.

So while the trucking industry almost “unequivocally loves” the FMCSA Clearinghouse, the numbers show that drug and alcohol testing has an impact on the nationwide truck driver shortage. “[T]he answer is the driver shortage can’t be solved easily or quickly, but the contribution to safety of the system of drug and alcohol testing can’t be denied, either,” was the general opinion of the people FleetOwner interviewed for the article titled “Drug and alcohol testing and the driver shortage.” 

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    Thomas Ahearn - News Blog Editor and Public Relations Specialist

    Thomas Ahearn is our News Blog Editor and Public Relations Specialist. Our News Blog provides information about the background check industry to employers, HR professionals, recruiters, and consumers. ClearStar's News covers a variety of topics including Ban the Box, credit reports, criminal records, data breaches, drug testing, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), E-Verify, Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), HR technology, identity theft and fraud, jobs reports, lawsuits involving screening, Millennial workforce, privacy issues, social media background checks, and workplace violence.

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