Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announces drug and alcohol clearinghouse rule

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announces drug and alcohol clearinghouse rule

4469868_sFor several decades, the nation as a whole has seen an increase in laws designed to crack down on drunk or drugged driving. These include detection methods as well as penalty sets.

In Illinois, the consequences drivers face if convicted of DUIs can be great. This effort includes commercial drivers as well. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will now be creating a new process and program aimed at reducing the number of commercial drivers operating vehicles while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The clearinghouse rule

Referred to as the Commercial Driver’s License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, this new system will hinge on a database designed to house records for all commercially licensed drivers. Trucking companies as well as owner-operators will be required to upload any pertinent information about which they have knowledge, such as DUI arrests or drug test refusals.

Some of the primary guidelines of the new rule as outlined in the Commercial Carrier Journal include:

  • Failures of, or refusal, to participate in drug or alcohol testing must be reported by carriers.
  • DUI or DWI convictions must be reported by carriers.
  • Drivers cannot be hired unless employers have first reviewed the clearinghouse records.
  • Employers must review database records for all drivers on an annual basis.
  • Drivers must provide written consent before employers can search their records; lack of this consent will limit the functions that drivers will be allowed to perform.

The FMCSA will return information on all queries within a period of seven business days. Carriers will also be allowed to perform full or limited searches. Full searches will be required for new hires while limited searches will be sufficient for annual reviews.

When problems occur

This new facet of transportation law does allow for drivers to appeal information found in the database and each appeal must be processed within 60 days. By completing the official return-to-duty process, drivers can have their records in the database cleared within three to five years. If the return-to-duty process is not completed, all clearinghouse records will become permanent.  When drivers are cleared of DUI charges, all related information must be expunged from the clearinghouse database within two business days.

Broad support with caution urged

The new clearinghouse has received support from multiple organizations including the American Trucking Association, the Truckload Carrier Association and the Truck Safety Coalition. These groups, however, have encouraged that the guidelines assure that only factual information is utilized in order to avoid drivers’ records from being unfairly tainted.

Safety on the road is as important to those in the transportation industry as to other motorists on the roads. The FMCSA’s clearinghouse could be launched by the end of 2015 or the beginning of 2016 and represents a move forward in preventing problems for drivers and carriers.

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