Nationwide Clearinghouse Proposed To Monitor Drug And Alcohol Offenses Of Truckers

By McCarton Ackerman 07/30/14

Will a nationwide monitoring system to track the drug and alcohol use of truck drivers cause more issues than it proposes to fix?

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is considering holding truckers across the country accountable for their drug and alcohol offenses by implementing a nationwide clearinghouse to track them.

The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) currently has a system like this in place for commercial driver’s license holders, but only tracks the offenses within Texas. Although this is more than the bulk of states which don’t have any sort of system in place, it allows out-of-state drivers to move to Texas and not have their previous offenses discovered. Many trucking companies in the state don’t even check the DPS database when hiring since they aren’t legally required to do so.

This could lead to a major issue since more truckers than ever are making their way to Texas due to the Eagle Ford shale boom. Steve Blake, vice president and safety director of R. Wyatt Companies, said that a national clearinghouse would offer “a checks and balances in our industry, to make sure that we have drivers that are drug and alcohol free.”

If the clearinghouse is approved, companies would be required to screen potential employees through the system and check up on them annually. At a cost of $13 per driver per year to the company, it’s being estimated that the clearinghouse would result in $187 million in benefits through a drastic reduction in traffic crashes. The FMCSA is currently reviewing public feedback about the proposal.

Not every trucking company is on the best of terms with federal organizations, however. In July 2012, the owner of a fledgling Texas trucking company sued the Drug Enforcement Agency for $1.43 million in damages after claiming they used one of his drivers as an undercover agent, leading to huge damages to his truck and the eventual death of the driver after an unauthorized trip to the Rio Grande Valley.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.