According to a new summary report published by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), its Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse database has recorded over 56,000 drug and alcohol violations over the past year, with the number of driver violations reported increased by approximately 10,000 over the final two months of 2020.
In addition, out of these violations, only 1,203 were alcohol-related, most of which were for drivers who tested with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.04 or greater. Accordingly, the majority of violations included drivers who tested positive for drug use, as well as those who declined to take a drug test or were suspected of cheating on a drug or alcohol test. The majority of drug test failures (29,500) were associated with cannabis use, according to the report, which provides a summary of the violations recorded since Jan. 6, 2020, when the Clearinghouse was officially launched.
In addition, out of the 45,000 drivers who lost their jobs due to the violations, 34,000 have not yet completed the return-to-work program, with some experts raising concerns that these drivers may be leaving their jobs permanently.
“The good news is that the system is working in capturing violations by drivers and allowing employers and enforcement personnel to verify a driver’s status prior to permitting him/her [to drive],” said Duane DeBruyne, an FMCSA spokesman, in a written statement. “Any violation reported is a bad thing; blocking prohibited drivers from endangering themselves and the lives of the motoring public is a good thing.”
The Clearinghouse was created with the aim of tracking truck drivers’ compliance history and to prevent them from changing jobs following a failed drug test. This is made possible because carriers, state driver licensing agencies and law enforcement officials use the Clearinghouse database to check drivers’ records for violations.
According to DeBruyne, the Clearinghouse is making it more difficult for prohibited drivers to avoid the required return-to-duty process, reducing the risk of “endangering themselves and the lives of everyone traveling our nation’s roadways.”
“I believe the 56,000 drivers with violations reiterates the importance of this Clearinghouse, and shines a spotlight on a rather large loophole in the drug and alcohol testing process that has existed for many years,” said Dan Horvath, vice president of safety policy for American Trucking Associations.
Furthermore, Dave Osiecki, president of Scopelitis Transportation Consulting, also said that the return-to-work number is low. “It’s concerning, and it bears watching and tracking,” Osiecki said. “The percentage of drivers with violations who are getting evaluated, and completing the treatment process, has risen slowly over the past several months. This is a good sign, but it’s also clear that many drivers are not entering treatment, which suggests they’ve left the industry.”
In addition to pre-employment checks, employers are required by regulation to check the database annually to ensure none of their employees have any drug violations. “It’s important to note that having a drug or alcohol testing violation is not an automatic end to a driver’s career,” said Horvath.