The increasing number of full queries made into the federal Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse is evidence that the database is taking drug abusers off the road as intended, according to a trucking regulatory expert.
According to the latest monthly statistics released Monday by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, full queries into the clearinghouse increased 33% to 13,785 between October and November, which followed a 61% increase between September and October. Full queries are conducted by employers on current drivers after receiving a “hit” on those drivers through a limited query.
A major motivation for the FMCSA’s clearinghouse, which opened on Jan. 6, was to close a loophole that had allowed drivers with drug or alcohol violations to get hired by trucking companies by lying about test failures.
“Drivers with violations are getting caught in the clearinghouse net, as intended,” David Osiecki, president and CEO of Scopelitis Transportation Consulting, told FreightWaves.
Also of note in the latest statistics, Osiecki said, was a 54% month-over-month increase in the number of limited queries into the database. “This is a clear sign employers are complying with the annual query requirement for their current drivers,” he said.
Employers — including owner-operators operating under their own authority — are required to run at least one query of their employees per year. The requirement can be met by conducting either a full or limited query. Employers have until Jan. 5 to perform their first annual query.
Osiecki pointed out one concerning trend throughout the 11 months that the clearinghouse has been up and running: the low percentage of drivers with violations who have been treated and cleared for return to duty, which affects overall driver retention in the trucking industry.
While that percentage has increased from roughly 5% earlier in the year to 11% in November, the number is “still stubbornly low,” he said, and “bears close watching going forward.”
Meanwhile, the number of drivers failing drug tests fell 12.7% in November compared to the previous month. As of Dec. 1, marijuana has been by far the No. 1 substance identified in 50,627 positive drug tests submitted since the clearinghouse began operating in January, at 53%. Cocaine was next at 14.3%, followed by methamphetamines at 9%.
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