According to the data published in the monthly report of the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), thousands of commercial vehicle drivers have refused to take drug tests since the online launch of the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse in January. The details of the report indicate that as of July 1, approximately 3,700 drivers had refused tests, with 95% of the refusals being related to drug tests.
The Clearinghouse is a national online database aimed to improve road safety by providing the names of commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers who fail drug and alcohol tests in real time. The database was created by an act of Congress directive to the Secretary of Transportation, with the aim of improving highway safety. Access to the Clearinghouse provides employers, the FMCSA, State Driver Licensing Agencies and State law enforcement personnel access to information regarding any drug or alcohol program violations on the records of commercial driver’s license and commercial learner’s permit holders. These records are retained in the database for five years.
Employers governed by the FMCSA are required to conduct queries in the Clearinghouse when hiring a new commercial driver, as well as annually for all drivers they currently employ. The FMCSA has also reported an increase in Clearinghouse queries in June, which represents renewed business activity following COVID-19 related closures in previous months.
The refusal of a commercial driver to submit to a drug or alcohol test is typically equivalent to testing positive to a drug or alcohol test. As a consequence, the driver must be immediately removed from performing tasks considered to be safety-sensitive (including driving CMVs) until their completion of the return-to-duty process with a substance abuse professional (SAP).
So far, the Clearinghouse has reported receiving 1,106.498 queries since its launch in January, as well as 25,761 violations.
Since March, the FMSCA has issued numerous waivers on drug and alcohol testing to reduce the burden of commercial drivers working during pandemic.