FMCSA seeks to improve database in Spring 2021

Jul 22, 2021

According to a new proposal, “[streamlining and improving] error-correction procedures, queries, and consent requirements” within the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Drug and Alcohol (FMCSA) Clearinghouse is on the spring 2021 agenda for the Department of Transportation.

The new agenda was issued by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs earlier in June, and outlines the status of and projected dates for all potential regulations listed in three stages, including pre-rule, proposed rule and final rule.

Specifically, the actions to improve the Clearinghouse protocol are in the proposed rule stage, with proposed rule-making expected to take place in February.

FMCSA fully implemented the Clearinghouse in January 2020, unveiling a national online database intended to enhance road safety by providing – in real time – the names of commercial motor vehicle drivers who have failed drug and alcohol tests.

Currently, federal regulations require motor carriers to conduct both pre-employment and random drug testing. Consequently, employees who test positive are prohibited from performing safety-sensitive functions, including operating a CMV, until they have completed a return-to-work programme under the care of a Substance Abuse Professional.

According to FMCSA, cannabis was the most common substance found in positive tests for substance misuse among CMV drivers, after being detected in 40,053 of the 75,522 positive tests reported to the Clearinghouse since Jan. 6, 2020. Furthermore, cocaine and methamphetamine, which were detected in 10,626 and 6,969 positive tests, respectively, were the next most common substances identified.

Among the 12 regulations listed as being in the final rule stage by FMCSA, there is an item concerning the addition of rear impact guards to the list of components to be evaluated during mandatory annual inspections of CMVs. The guards are currently excluded from the list of components for required inspections. In addition, FMCSA has proposed to change labeling requirements for the guards “and to exclude road construction controlled (RCC) horizontal discharge trailers from the rear impact guard requirements,” according to the notice of proposed rule-making (NPRM).

“Including rear impact guards and rear end protection in the periodic inspection requirements in Appendix G will call additional attention to this critical safety component and help ensure that each vehicle is checked at least once a year, improving compliance and helping to prevent fatalities and injuries when rear-end collisions occur,” states the NPRM. “Furthermore, including rear impact guards and rear end protection in the periodic annual inspection standards will harmonize U.S. regulations with those in Canada and Mexico, which include rear impact guards and rear end protection as part of their annual inspection programs.”

The final rule on the amendments is expected to be published in November.