Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse: A Year Later
Posted: March 22, 2021
The FMCSA’s Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse site, designed to house drug and alcohol violation data and help streamline the hiring process, went live in January 2020. Since then, about 197,000 employers - a third of which identify as owner-operators - and 1.6 million drivers registered in the Clearinghouse, according to FMCSA. So, after one full year of the Clearinghouse site being live, what should our takeaways be?
All about the numbers
According to a summary report published by the FMCSA, there were 136,806 full queries, 1.4 million pre-employment queries and 2.7 million limited queries made to the Clearinghouse in 2020. During this time, more than 56,000 commercial violations were reported to the Clearinghouse. Since it’s possible for drivers to test positive for multiple banned substances, the FMCSA indicated that the total number of affected drivers was 52,000. The FMCSA also said that 45,822 of those were drug test failures, 7,803 were from test refusals and 1,330 were from employers’ actual knowledge of a drug or alcohol violation. Only 1,203 of these violations were alcohol related while marijuana was the largest reason for drug test failures at 29,500 violations.
What’s most concerning is that the return-to-work number of drivers is very low. Of the 52,000 drivers with violations, only 6,500 of them have gone through the necessary substance abuse counseling and tested negative for drugs and alcohol in order to get back behind the wheel. About 35,000 of the violators have not even started the return-to-work process and another 10,000 drivers are not yet cleared to drive. These drivers represent around 1.3 percent of truck drivers in the United States. Although the number of drivers who are completing the return-to-work process is increasing, it’s also evident that many of these drivers are exiting the industry instead of getting the support they need for positive change. The loss of these drivers only adds to the current driver shortage. According to the Journal of Commerce Annual Review & Outlook, industry experts predict that 2020 will be the first year on record that the number of truck drivers has dropped year-over-year since the recession in 2008-2009, indicating the Clearinghouse as one of the factors making a significant impact.
Looking toward the future
The Clearinghouse is doing its job by keeping violators from endangering themselves and others on the road; the FMCSA indicates these violation numbers aren’t new or an increase, they’re only being recorded and monitored for the first time. Duane DeBruyne, FMCSA spokesman said that the establishment of the Clearinghouse “did not change the federal drug and alcohol testing regulations or the required percentage of drivers tested.” What’s different now is that it is more difficult for prohibited drivers to bypass the return-to-work process.
It’s also important to remember that having a drug or alcohol violation is not a career ender. Rather, it may be a very important next step in the recovery process. There is a clear plan to help drivers with violations get back into their jobs and we’re now starting to see a growing number or individuals completing the return-to-work process. At Averitt, we are always here to help. In fact, our assistance program includes free, confidential counseling to help our associates with stress, anxiety, depression and substance abuse issues.
If you’re a professional CDL-A truck driver who has not yet registered with the Clearinghouse website, you can do so here: https://clearinghouse.fmcsa.dot.gov/Register.