Brad Pistotnik Law
Abogado El Toro

Will the FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse Make American Roads Safer?

Will the FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse Make American Roads Safer?

Will the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's (FMCSA) new Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse reduce accidents? What is the purpose of the Clearinghouse? Launched in 2020, the FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse is a centralized database that gathers real-time information regarding drug and alcohol violations by commercial motor vehicle operators. Ostensibly, this will make it easier for regulators and legislators to make policy decisions and adjust enforcement operations to address known threats and improve road safety.

Shocking Statistics Raise Alarms

The FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse contains information on more than 182,124 truck and bus employers. While the initial thought was that the COVID-19 pandemic would result in fewer drug and alcohol violations, the data showed quite the opposite was true.

Last year, a total of 56,156 commercial motor vehicle driver violations were reported. Of these, 45,822 were drug test failures. A further 7,803 were reports of refusals to take drug tests.

Given the fact that many states have now legalized the use of either recreational or medical marijuana, it's no surprise that a significant number of offenses involved cannabis consumption. In all, 29,500 drivers tested positive for marijuana. This was followed by:

  • 7,940 reports of cocaine violations
  • 5,187 reports of methamphetamine violations
  • 5,953 reports of amphetamine violations
  • 5,389 reports of opioid violations
  • 1,203 reports of alcohol violations

Drug Testing Is Working

One positive trend that can be inferred from the data is that drug and alcohol testing is catching a significant number of violators. 52,000 last year alone. Of these, 20,761 were the result of random drug/alcohol testing, 2,293 were caught in post-accident tests, and 1,120 were uncovered during reasonable suspicion tests.

It's also keeping dangerous drivers off the road. Of the drivers whose records indicate they were placed on prohibited status, only 6,513 completed the necessary rehabilitative measures and were allowed to return to service. Just under 35,000 did not make such an attempt. This shows that drug and alcohol testing accompanied by strictly enforced penalties is helping to clean up the trucking industry and remove dangerous drivers from behind the wheel of commercial motor vehicles.

The Devil Lies in Two Crucial Details

While functional, the Clearinghouse is an incomplete record of the true state of affairs in the commercial truck driving industry. That's because, in 2019, state licensing agencies were given a three-year reprieve lasting until January 2023 to file inquiries with the Clearinghouse.

And, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the FMCSA extended waivers for pre-employment drug testing. Employers were essentially allowed to skip that step to ensure that the flow of goods and critical commerce didn't grind to a halt last year.

These factors have created an incomplete data set and demonstrate that there are still significant loopholes that can allow dangerous drivers to get behind the wheel of a commercial motor vehicle. However, this is likely to change over time as penalties for failure to report are enforced, and more states start requiring the use of the data in the pre-employment screening process.

Contact Brad Pistotnik Law at 1-800-241-BRAD or call us on our local line at 316-684-4400. Brad Pistotnik is a commercial motor vehicle accident attorney in Kansas. We represent clients pursuing claims against commercial motor vehicle operators and employers whose failure to report results in collisions in Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, and Texas. If you can't come to us, we will come to you. You can call Brad Pistotnik on his cell at 316-706-5020. You can reach Tony Atterbury on his cell at 316-617-9237.