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Driver issuesMost PopularNewsTop StoriesTrucking Regulation

FMCSA: More drivers returning to work after drug violations

Clearinghouse also shows almost all active CDL drivers have been queried in database

There is hope for a trucking industry that has been warning of a major blow to the pool of available drivers resulting from tighter compliance measures by federal regulators: Drivers are more often taking the necessary steps toward returning to duty after getting hit with violations.

That seems to be one of the trends revealed by data compiled by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse, which went into effect in January 2020.

Of the 55,901 drivers declared ineligible to drive because of one or more violations, almost 7,906 have returned to driving and an additional 7,574 are eligible for return-to-duty testing.

“This means that over 25% of drivers who failed a drug or alcohol test have demonstrated the desire to return to trucking by taking the steps necessary to return to driving,” said P. Sean Garney, vice president at Scopelitis Transportation Consulting. That compares to just over 14% of drivers working toward reinstatement as of June 1, 2020, when the data was first made public.

“It’s great to see this trend continue because it means that there are a lot of committed drivers out there willing to overcome adversity to keep America’s freight moving,” Garney said.

Source: FMCSA, Scopelitis Transportation Consulting

At the same time, however, the number of drivers determined to be eligible for return-to-duty testing but not yet having taken the test has also increased every month (see chart), suggesting that some drivers “may be struggling to find an employer willing to sponsor their return-to-duty testing and are therefore having a hard time returning to trucking.”

The latest clearinghouse data also shows that after the first year in operation, the industry lost — at least temporarily — 47,995 drivers due to drug or alcohol violations recorded in the database. “The good news is that’s only about 1.5% of CDL drivers, beating some of the doomsday predictions of massive driver loss by a long shot,” Garney said.

Some in the industry have been predicting that if hair test results are allowed in the clearinghouse, the percentage of ineligible drivers could increase to anywhere from 3% to 10%.

The latest data also reveals that trucking companies or their designated representatives have made over 5 million queries into the system to verify a driver’s drug and alcohol test status, with 3.3 million of those categorized as federally required annual queries.

“This means that, theoretically, nearly every active CDL driver has had his or her name run through the clearinghouse at least once,” Garney pointed out. “The days of drivers incurring a drug or alcohol violation and avoiding detection and skipping the return-to-duty process are over, and that’s good news for safety.”

Related articles:

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.

John Gallagher, Washington Correspondent

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.

35 Comments

  1. This is Totally Wrong to Drivers.!! Weed is Legal in MANY States Now.. Weed Don’t Effect A Person.. Like Alcohol…
    TIME TO STOP TESTING FOR. WEED and DESTROYING GOOD DRIVER LIVELY HOOD.
    JUST TO FIND ANTHING AGAINST THE TRUCKING INDUSTRY..!!! #STOPPICKING

    1. Thank you! That’s absolutely correct, and the science is in on marijuana..Its actually GOOD for your health. Quit trying to control every aspect of our lives, government!
      If you must test for weed it should be a test similar to an alcohol breath test. What tax paying, hard working blue collar drivers do on their own time is their buisness!

  2. THE DRUG/ALCOHOL CLEARANCE IS NOT WORKING FOR THE TRUCKING INDUSTRY.!!
    CAN’T FMCSA AND OTHERS SEE 👀 THAT… CUT IT OUT NOW..!!!!
    U WANT HAVE NO DRIVER’S

    1. I won’t plea guilty to a false charge.i even took a hair sample test to prove my inocense and it was negative.fmcsa set up my rtd testing but clearing house doesn’t allow my results without their steps.i won’t pleaing guilty of this bogus charge.6 years and a test a month .all were clean.im a proud driver that won’t bow down

  3. If you want the good drivers back on the road then you government people need to get your noses out of the industry. Two time drug or alcohol violators should be banned for life.

  4. If you test positive for drugs or alcohol you don’t need a CDL. Especially if you smoke weed. That makes you a drug addict.

    1. You sir are a dumbass. Marijuana is a plant put here by the man up stairs. It HELPS so many people with depression, seizure pts I can keep going. But I’m afraid you wouldn’t or couldn’t understand the facts. Do use all a favor and go drink your poison and stay off our roads. 27 years Driving 0 at fault accidents and millions of miles driving. The whole time i smoked marijuana on the weekends and days off. Now I’m 47 and retired owner operator. Go educate yourself before opening your mouth..

  5. I had rotator cuff surgery in February 2020. After two weeks of pain killers I had to stop taking them because they were making me loopie as hell. My wife wholelistic doctor suggested using CBD For pain after my wife mentioned my situation. It was working fine, it took away at least half the pain. It made things bearable. I use it almost every day for about 3 months. When I took my back to work drug screen I tested positive. Ended up losing my 40 year career. I’ve tested every year never refused never tested positive. Now I can’t find a driving job to save my ass. No one will touch me. I did sign up for a drug program, completed it, paid for it but O&M and Penske wouldn’t take me back. FMCSA has made it impossible for me to get a job for at least the next 5 years till it fall off there site. I’m not even a pot smoker but I’m thinking about it now. So I’ve taken a low paying job and I’m behind on bills and I have 4 more years to go. Probably not gonna make it. CBD IS SOLD OVER THE COUNTER. ITS LEGAL TO USE. Never did I know that it contained THC I assumed it was just cannabis plant. So I’m screwed out of my profession because nobody has ever talked about the use of CBD. If this happened before fmcsa new ruling I wouldn’t be in such deep chit. I could have been able to find work again. Insurance company’s will not allow companies to hire you because of FMCSA RULING, thanks for helping kill my long term career. I don’t see ever going back to trucking. It’s all I ever known. I’m 59 trying to find a new career and most jobs don’t pay as much as I was making. I don’t believe FMCSA claim, you shouldn’t either.

  6. “This means that, theoretically, nearly every active CDL driver has had his or her name run through the clearinghouse at least once”

    I know for a fact my name has never been queried, data analytics is a pesky little thing. Whatever the end user wants it to be it is. This will never improve safety as long as mega carriers exist. I’m not advocating drug and alcohol use on the job, not advocating it as a coping mechanism. When all is said and done this program, is a solution looking for a problem that’s just my opinion. It’s simple economics, if you receive the scarlett letter, every potential employer will see that you have. When you have a family to feed, .30 cpm will seem acceptable than .42 cpm, ironically this has nothing to do with safety but economics. I’d be curious to see where these drivers who have had these violations ended up, the mega carriers wanted this as a catch all.

    Would be very interesting to see, if these programs that certify for you to return to duty, have any connections, no matter how faint, to the mega carriers who will now contract them, to certify driver to return to work.

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