Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse

The Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse Mandate: Is It Needed?

As of Jan. 6, 2020, motor carriers are required to begin using the FMCSA’s Commercial Driver’s License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse.  The Clearinghouse will allow carriers to screen new drivers during pre-hire and all drivers annually. With these new procedures, the FMCSA seeks to eliminate almost 900 crashes annually, resulting in $196 million in total benefit to society.

But with the high administrative burden the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse imposes on carriers, you may be wondering if it’s worth it.

Urinalysis Misses 9 of 10 Illegal Drug Users With a CDL

The Alliance for Driver Safety & Security (also known as the Trucking Alliance) recently informed members of Congress that it believes “thousands of commercial truck drivers are illicit drug users.” Further, overwhelming data shows that these offenders are manipulating federal drug test protocols and obtaining jobs as commercial truck drivers. The alliance found that among a sample of 151,622 truck driver applicants, thousands of applicants failed one or both drug tests. Most of these applicants held an active CDL, and 94 percent tested drug-free.

From the Trucking Alliance statement:

“Alarmingly, the urinalysis, the only method recognized by USDOT, and relied on by almost all trucking company employers, actually failed to identify most drug abusers. The urinalysis detected drugs in 949 applicants, about 1% of the population. However, 8.6%, or 8,878 truck driver applicants, either failed or refused the hair test. Put another way, the urinalysis missed 9 out of 10 actual illicit drug users. The most prevalent drug was cocaine, followed by opioids and marijuana. Applicants who failed or refused the hair test were disqualified for employment at these companies, but likely obtained the same job elsewhere, at companies that administer only a urinalysis.”

301,000 Truck Drivers Would Fail or Refuse

The Trucking Alliance goes on to calculate that 301,000 commercial truck drivers of the 3.5 million on the road would fail or refuse a hair analysis for illegal drug use.

Hair testing presents a more accurate method to testing drivers for illegal drug use. Although mandated regulation is in the works, it’s still months away from public comment, let alone full adoption. Ron Flegel, chairman of the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Drug Testing Advisory Board, says hair testing can detect use as recent as a week prior to collection. It will also open a longer window of detection than urine tests. Hair analysis also is more easily observed, making it more difficult to subvert results during specimen collection.

Want More Information on the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse?

For more information on compliance and the operational challenges for motor carriers and drivers:

  1. Watch our webinar, “FMCSA’s Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse – What You Need to Know,”
  2. Download the free Spireon report by Sean Garney, vice president at Scopelitis Transportation Consulting.
  3. Read part one of this blog on how to prepare.
  4. For the latest on the CDL Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, including an FAQ and query plan pricing, visit the FMCSA clearinghouse website.

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