DOT drivers with violations still able to fall through the cracks

According to a recent article published in the Commercial Carrier Journal, new data released by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) shows that thousands of truck drivers could have already failed a drug test while potentially remaining employed and operating commercial vehicles for months. The Clearinghouse, an online database created by the DOT, holds information regarding drivers who have failed or refused a drug test, and is aimed to restrict them from remaining in their posts, as well as from getting hired for other jobs in commercial vehicle operation.  

The numbers released by the DOT indicate that more than 8,000 records were added to the Clearinghouse since January 6, 2020, when implementation of the new rule created by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration began. These records represent the number of commercial drivers license holders who have failed or refused a drug test as part of either random drug testing, pre-employment screening, follow-up or post-accident testing. Moreover, drivers who had failed a random or post-accident drug test were likely removed from their positions; however, drivers who failed a pre-employment screening may still be employed and operating commercial vehicles, according to the Commercial Carrier Journal.

Currently, aside from the annual query, there is no existing procedure for notifying fleets of drivers failing pre-employment drug tests. Therefore, in the scenario where a driver already holding a job applies for a position with another fleet and becomes turned away due to failing a pre-employment drug test, they could still maintain their current position without their employer knowing about it.

In her interview with Commercial Carrier Journal, Kathy Close a legal compliance expert said, “If that doesn’t happen, the only way their employer would learn of it would be through a query [to the Clearinghouse].” According to the legal expert, “It’s up to the employer to learn of it,” in the case where a driver fails to notify their employer they have failed a drug test elsewhere.

Close added that it is not currently known how many of the 8,000 records of failed drug tests apply to drivers already holding jobs who failed a pre-employment screening, and how many of them reflect drivers who had failed a random drug test. The price of a single query is $1.25 per query per driver.

In addition, legal experts advise carriers to update their drug testing policies accordingly in order to ensure their drivers are aware that employers can query the Clearinghouse on a regular basis, rather than once a year.  

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