The Clearinghouse Is Working & Will Get Even Better – Key Takeaways from FMCSA’s New Report

By Dave Osiecki & Sean Garney of Scopelitis Transportation Consulting LLC & Regulatory Consultants to DriverReach – June 11, 2020

On June 10, 2020, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration posted its first Drug & Alcohol ClearinghouseMonthly Summary Report containing data collected and analyzed during the first 5 months in operation.  FMCSA’s user-friendly 5-page report provides and highlights Clearinghouse-related data on:

  • User registrations;
  • Full and limited queries conducted;
  • Number and type of driver violations reported; and
  • Return-to-duty status of drivers with violations.

DriverReach has been a longstanding proponent of the Clearinghouse, and we reviewed FMCSA’s first summary report with great interest.  Here are some of our initial observations and takeaways:

  • At 125,510, the number of employer registrations is a good start, and those numbers will grow. 
    • FMCSA’s latest data show there are 562,000 regulated employers in the U.S.   We expect the number of registered employers will continue to climb higher throughout 2020, as the first annual query requirement for currently employed drivers comes due.
  • At 356,213, the number of limited queries already made on currently employed drivers is a great sign for safety.
    • This means many employers are not waiting until the end of 2020 to perform the initial, required annual (limited) query on currently employed drivers. It may also be a sign that many carriers intend on running limited queries more than once per year. Employers are choosing to voluntary conduct and pay for limited queries to verify their current drivers continue to be qualified to drive. This is good for safety.
  • The 21,167 drug and alcohol violations already reported is a clear statement on the need for this centralized database to track and report on the return-to-duty status of drivers who choose to violate the testing program rules.
    • After 5 months, this violation figure means approximately 4,250 driver violations are reported monthly.  At this rate, there will be approximately 51,000 violations in the Clearinghouse at the end of the first year. 
    • Interestingly, in 2016 when FMCSA issued its final Clearinghouse rules, it projected 58,500 reported violations annually.
    • 10,388 of the 21,167 reported violations are for positive marijuana tests.
  • This number, as shown in a bar chart in the report, jumps off the page.  Marijuana is clearly the drug of choice among the small percentage of drug-using truck drivers, and marijuana positives are 3-4 times greater than the number of cocaine positives (the second highest number of reported positives).  These Clearinghouse numbers confirm the marijuana use findings of prior DOT studies. 
  • 18,860 drivers currently in “prohibited” status is another clear indication of the need for this centralized Clearinghouse.
    • If these drivers apply for a new CDL driving position at a different company, the hiring employer will be notified of the driver’s “prohibited” status as a result of the pre-employment query. Furthermore, if these drivers are stopped for a roadside inspection, the inspector will discover this at place the driver out-of-service.   
    • Interestingly, this number of drivers in “prohibited” status also presents a clear and compelling reason to FMCSA to (1) push this information to State DMVs, and (2) to require State DMVs to suspend the driver’s CDL until a negative return-to-duty test is posted. 
  • The data is another metric of the impact of COVID-19 on the trucking industry.
    • The monthly trend of queries conducted tells a familiar story. Between March and May, the number of queries declined sharply. The good news is that they’ve stabilized as the rate of driver hiring begins to improve.

DriverReach will continue to review FMCSA’s Monthly Summary Reports on this important program, and will develop new blog posts with observations and takeaways based on updated data. 

Link to FMCSA’s May 2020 Monthly Summary Report

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