According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,921 individuals were killed and 104,000 were injured in 2012 during collisions involving commercial trucks on U.S. roadways. Out of those fatal crashes, two percent involved commercial truck drivers who had a blood alcohol concentration at or above 0.08 g/dL, which is currently the legal threshold for individuals to be considered driving while drunk throughout the nation. When taken at face value, the two percent statistic may seem deceptively small. In reality, it accounts for 78 completely preventable deaths and 2,080 completely preventable injuries.
To prevent this kind of tragedy from occurring each year, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has proposed that a commercial driver clearinghouse be created. It would monitor drivers and ensure that they are not engaging in risky behaviors like drinking and using drugs before or during their employment as a commercial driver. Although federal laws have been in place for years prohibiting these practices, no system has been created to allow trucking companies the ability to find whether or not their drivers or potential hires have been guilty of breaking the laws. It is the FMCSA’s hope that this clearinghouse will fill that purpose and keep inebriated and drugged drivers off the roads, thus preventing truck accidents and saving lives.
Provisions of the proposed clearinghouse
Trucking companies are required by federal law to conduct random alcohol and drug testing for their commercial driver’s license holders each calendar year. To be in compliance with the law, companies must test 50 percent of their CDL holders for drugs and 10 percent for alcohol. Federal and state inspectors also conduct random roadside inspections for alcohol and drug use. The results of all of these random tests would be available in the clearinghouse for three years. Other sources of information include medical review officers, substance abuse professionals, and private, third party U.S. Department of Transportation testing labs.
Under current law, employers can demand that their drivers undergo drug and alcohol testing randomly, after they have been involved in an accident, or if a supervisor feels like the law is being violated. If a driver fails or refuses to take part in the testing, or if they are cleared to return to work after completion of a substance abuse program, that information would also be included in the clearinghouse.
When a large truck is involved in a collision with a car, 83 percent of fatalities are drivers of the other vehicles, not the truck drivers. If the clearinghouse becomes a reality, all testing information will be readily available to employers. This has the potential to weed out drivers with risky behaviors and may prevent them from being hired as commercial truck drivers in the first place, saving many from the effects of sustaining a serious injury. However, until the clearinghouse is created, truck accidents are likely to continue to occur.