Conference stresses importance of drug and alcohol preemployment queries

Topics from artificial intelligence in safety technology to drug and alcohol test requirements are the focus of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance Annual Conference and Exhibition.

The gathering in Rapid City, South Dakota, includes local, state, provincial, territorial and federal commercial motor vehicle safety officials and industry representatives.

Employers who employ drivers subject to the licensing requirements in 49 CFR Part 383 and the drug and alcohol testing requirements in 49 CFR Part 382 are required to query for information in the Clearinghouse.

A northeastern operator attending the CVSA meeting reports recently processing a driver applicant through the driver qualification requirements. The required query showed the driver had been previously reported for testing positive for illicit drugs and had not been cleared by a substance abuse professional. The driver was and remains ineligible to be hired, yet motorcoach companies had employed him.

When asked why he failed to disclose the previous violation, the applicant replied that none of the other companies he has worked with ran the query, so he did not think it was important.

Let’s be clear – it’s important.

Skipping the query is huge mistake

Failing to query a driver applicant is a serious violation. Drug and alcohol violations can quickly lead to an UNSATISFACTORY rating and substantial financial penalties.

Also, failing to properly query a driver can lead to unprecedented liability for your company. Imagine for a moment failing to query a driver who eventually tests positive after a serious crash. Plaintiff’s lawyers would have a field day upon discovery.

The failure could lead to being uninsurable and the company’s demise.

The Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse implementation was just getting underway when the pandemic struck and shut the charter bus industry down for months or longer. Unlike the truck industry, we did not have a ramp up period, but the Clearinghouse regulations have been in effect now for over two-years. Pandemic or not, the Clearinghouse queries and reporting is the law.

Over 143,000 positive drug tests have been reported to the Clearinghouse. While the majority of positive tests are for marijuana, other positive tests include cocaine, methamphetamine, amphetamines, various opioids, morphine, codeine (commonly used in prescription cough syrup but widely abused), 6-acetylmorphine (a metabolite of heroin), phencyclidine (known as PCP or angel dust), MDMA (ecstasy or “Molly”), and the psychedelic drug MDA (“Sally”).

Illegal drug abuse is saturating every corner of society, and illicit drug users pose a hazard to the traveling public and our passengers. Don’t be the company that fails to properly qualify a driver through the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse.

Ken Presley is the Vice President, Legislative & Regulatory Affairs & Industry Relations/COO for the United Motorcoach Association.


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