The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has expanded drug and alcohol testing requirements for truck drivers to include commercial drivers employed by staffing agencies. The DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) made clear in a notice of enforcement guidance published in the Federal Register that the department’s existing controlled substances and alcohol testing regulations extend to commercial driver staffing agencies that employ commercial drivers who are supplied to motor carriers to operate commercial motor vehicles.
According to the notice, commercial driver staffing agencies supply the motor carrier industry with intermittent, casual or occasional drivers to help meet industry business demands. The staffing agency directly employs the driver, and pays the driver’s wages and employment taxes so they would also fall under the FMCSA’s regulatory umbrella. FMCSA said it defines a “casual, intermittent, or occasional driver” as one who works for another employer for any period of less than 30 consecutive days.
If a leased driver operates or is expected to operate for a motor carrier employer for more than 30 consecutive days, the driver should be included in that motor carrier employer’s random testing pool and that motor carrier employer should assume full responsibility for the driver under its own DOT drug and alcohol testing program, FMCSA said.
These employers and staffing agencies would also be subject to recordkeeping requirements. The FMCSA said that employers using such drivers must verify the driver’s participation in a DOT drug and alcohol testing program every six months and maintain records verifying that.
The expanded drug-testing requirements came weeks after the FMCSA issued its long-awaited final rule establishing a drug and alcohol clearinghouse for commercial bus and truck drivers that would serve as a central location to find violations of the administration’s testing program for the substances. The database will be a central repository for records of violations of the alcohol and drug testing program by those who hold commercial driver’s licenses. Once it is established, motor carrier employers will have to look at the system for information about prospective and current employees who have unresolved federal drug and alcohol testing regulation violations that would keep them from operating a commercial motor vehicle, FMCSA said in its announcement.
The trucking industry had spent nearly two decades lobbying for the creation of a national repository for drug and alcohol test results in order to close a regulatory loophole that made it possible for a driver with a history of drug or alcohol abuse to be hired by a carrier without that carrier being informed of the driver’s history.
The clearinghouse rule goes into effect this month, but industry stakeholders have until January 2020 to get in compliance. The rule requires motor carriers, medical review officers, designated representatives and substance abuse professionals to report positive drug and alcohol test results, drivers’ refusal to be tested, traffic citations for impaired driving, drivers who have undergone the return-to-duty drug and alcohol rehabilitation process and actual knowledge of drug or alcohol use to FMCSA.
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