Last updated: September 21, 2020
On June 10, 2020, the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration) released the first Clearinghouse violations report. The five-page report details the findings of data gathered between January 1 and June 1 of this year. The report provides useful information for the trucking industry. It tracks drug and alcohol violations incurred by safety-sensitive drivers nationwide.
How it works
Employers must report drug and alcohol violations to the Clearinghouse within 2 business days after the MRO (Medical Review Officer) confirms a positive drug or alcohol test. The employer, their MRO, or the C/TPA (Consortium/Third Party Administrator) can submit the result. The information remains on a driver’s record until they are signed off as having completed their return to duty process.
Employers were encouraged to create their accounts and pre-enroll their drivers beginning in October 2019.
Those required to register with the database include:
- CDL drivers
- Employers who own or operate commercial vehicles as part of their business
- Drivers’ licensing agencies
- Medical review officers (MROs)
- Substance abuse professionals (SAPs)
After getting off to a rocky start, the Clearinghouse was quick to define problems with the new site. FMCSA corrected the issues within a matter of days and it’s been smooth sailing since.
The ultimate goal of the nationwide database is to increase safety on the highways.
FMCSA’s description of the Clearinghouse includes the following:
“The Clearinghouse is a secure online database that gives employers, the FMCSA, State Driver Licensing Agencies (SDLAs), and State law enforcement personnel real-time information about commercial driver’s license (CDL) and commercial learner’s permit (CLP) holders’ drug and alcohol program violations. ”
It eliminates the possibility of a driver who has incurred a drug or alcohol violation from simply moving to a new state, obtaining a CDL, and applying for jobs. Dishonest drivers don’t include the employer who knows they failed a drug test on their job applications. Instead, they “start fresh” working in a different region of the country.
The problem with that, of course, is that it places everyone on the road with that driver in danger if they continue to drive while impaired. Sadly, the odds are that they will.
Drugs outnumber alcohol violations
The number of Clearinghouse violations reported during the first half of 2020 totaled 21,167. However, the difference in drug-impaired drivers compared to drivers under the influence of alcohol was huge.
- 20, 678 drug violations
- 489 alcohol violations
When we do the math, we discover that drug violations make up 80% of the total number. When we break it down a bit further though, we find that marijuana was the cause of just over 50% of all failed tests—including alcohol.
- 10,388 marijuana violations
- 3,192 cocaine violations
- 2,184 methamphetamine violations
It could be that a large number of marijuana violations are due in part to drivers being unaware that they can’t drive with marijuana in their system. Even if it’s legal in their home state, marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug on the DEA’s list of controlled substances.
The Department of Transportation isn’t going to change their stance on marijuana as long as it’s included on the DEA’s list.
In short, if you operate a motor vehicle for a living in the United States and choose to smoke marijuana or use CBD products, you risk testing positive on a drug test.
It’s far more likely, however, that the drivers who test positive for marijuana use are aware of the fact that the DOT regulation hasn’t changed. They consciously choose to ignore it.
The second-highest number of positive drug test results was due to cocaine abuse. It’s likely this stimulant is popular with drivers because of its ability to keep you wide awake for long periods of time. Users build up a tolerance to the drug though and need to increase the dosage to achieve the desired effect.
That leads to increased risk of overdose and can trigger bizarre, erratic, and violent behavior—all of which can be teamed up with the phrase “road rage.”
However, it’s a Schedule 2 drug on the controlled substances list which makes use outside a doctor’s care illegal. Even if you have a prescription though, using cocaine while working is strictly forbidden by the Department of Transportation—and employers of the general workforce as well.
A movie linked the word “madness” with “reefer” back when the push for marijuana prohibition began.
However, knowing what we know about marijuana and methamphetamine…
Methamphetamine seems like a more insane choice when comparing the two drugs.
This drug is highly addictive and harmful to the body in many ways.
Negative effects that drivers could experience include:
- Decreased feelings of hunger lead to extreme weight loss
- A false sense of well-being and energy causes users to push themselves beyond their limits
- Disturbed sleep patterns
- Increased aggressiveness and irritability
Furthermore, the body builds up a tolerance to the drug putting users at increased risk of overdose due to taking larger and larger doses.
A little good news
Even though over 21,000 drug and alcohol violations have been logged so far, the number reflects less than half of a percent of all CDL drivers. That’s according to Sean Garney, vice president of Scopelitis Transportation Consulting. He revealed the stat in an interview with Transport Topics shortly after the Clearinghouse violations report came out.
When you look at it in that light, it shows that the majority of drivers take their responsibility seriously. They aren’t risking the lives of others on the roadway when transporting goods across the nation. They transport our citizens from place to place with the utmost care.
For the few who choose to drive while impaired, the FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse is already proving to be a useful tool to combat abuse. Employers, law enforcement, and other qualified users have the ability to track Clearinghouse violations nationwide eliminating the risk of allowing a driver with a drug or alcohol problem to get behind the wheel.
Thanks to the FMCSA’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, America will keep on trucking with an increased focus on safety.