Volume 61, Number 5
December 2016/ January 2017

FMCSA to create National Drug and Alcohol Test Result Clearinghouse for commercial truck and bus drivers?

After nearly two years since the proposed rule was announced in February of 2014, The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) arm of the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced on October 31, 2016 that the final rule for a drug and alcohol clearinghouse cleared the White House Office of Management and Budget. The final rule is expected to be published in the Federal Register in December, 2016.

As covered in the rulemaking process, the new “clearinghouse” is really a central database for DOT-verified positive controlled substances and alcohol test results for Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) holders as well as refusals to test. Medical Review Officers (MROs) who determine any DOT-FMCSA drug test (Pre-Employment, Random, Reasonable Suspicion, Follow-up or Return-to-Duty) to be positive or refused will be required to report those results into the clearinghouse.

Once the clearinghouse is up and running, employers who are considering a CDL holder for employment in a safety-sensitive position – any driving job that requires a Class A, Class B or Hazmat Endorsement on the employee’s license – will be required to obtain the prospective employee’s written consent and to check the clearinghouse before allowing the job applicant to be hired and to drive a commercial motor vehicle. This requirement would apply to non-DOT Class C drivers and other workers who were being “promoted” from within a company to a DOT safety sensitive position.

The rationale for the rule is to increase highway safety by ensuring that CDL holders who have tested positive or refused to submit to a test have complied with the return-to-duty process required by DOT before driving a commercial vehicle.

The clearinghouse will close a loophole by which some CDL holders were able to avoid the return-to-duty process simply by leaving the name of the company where they tested positive or refused a test off their job application. The current rules only require that a prospective employer check back three years to see if previous employers report at DOT testing or test refusal violation.

Anyone testing positive for drugs (amphetamines – including MDMA, MDEA & MDA), cocaine, marijuana, opiates and phencyclidine [PCP]) or alcohol or refusing a test must be:

• evaluated by a Substance Abuse Professional (SAP),
• referred to some level of substance abuse treatment,
• seen for a follow-up evaluation after successfully completing the treatment recommended,
• pass a return-to-duty drug and or alcohol test, and
• be subject to a minimum of 6 tests in the first year of actual safety sensitive work and up to a maximum of five years of testing as determined by the SAP.

TAP and TARP counselors are qualified Substance Abuse Professionals and can perform SAP evaluations for any driver who violates the DOT drug and alcohol testing rules. These evaluations can cost drivers up to $1,000 but are included in the TAP/TARP benefit that is part of services provided to TAP/TARP-participating Trust Funds. These services are available to drivers in participating Trust Funds regardless of the company’s policy of termination or one-time chance for some violations.

Drivers must know that once the Clearinghouse is in place, they will not be able to get another job driving a commercial vehicle without complying with the DOT-required SAP evaluation.

Remember that TAP and TARP are always available to provide assistance with alcohol and drug related problems for any Teamster or family member. While Teamsters with medical insurance through a company plan may not have the TAP or TARP benefit, our counselors are willing to help direct those without the TAP/TARP benefit to professionals who can help in accordance with your medical insurance.