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New FMCSA registry offers insight on substance abuse in trucking

It may not be possible to avoid commercial trucks when traveling California’s roadways. However, research suggests motorists would be wise to exercise caution when driving in the same vicinity as semitrucks. Commercial trucks pose a threat to the public based on size and weight alone. Yet, when the individuals driving those trucks are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they become even more dangerous and deadly.

Per Fleet Owner, the substance abuse problem among truckers has become so notable in recent years that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration enacted something called a Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse to identify substance-abusing truckers. The clearinghouse took effect in early 2020. A review of it thus far has revealed information about the prevalence of drug and alcohol abuse in trucking.

Clearinghouse findings

Trucking employers have certain responsibilities when it comes to the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse. All American fleet owners have an obligation to run queries of the drivers they employ to see if they have any substance abuse violations in their pasts.

In the first 11 months of the clearinghouse’s existence, fleet owners conducted 2 million queries. Those queries revealed about 50,000 substance abuse violations. The majority of the violations turned up in searches involved drivers who failed drug tests.  Another 12% of violations involved truckers who refused to submit to drug tests when asked.

Clearinghouse compliance requirements

Fleet owners that do not run queries on drivers or otherwise comply with clearinghouse mandates run the risk of facing penalties. They may also face fines totaling several thousand dollars per offense.

Proponents of the clearinghouse attest that it helps keep substance abusers from getting behind the wheel of commercial trucks. Yet, 10% of truckers with substance abuse violations listed in the clearinghouse are back out on the roads.