When traveling the roads and highways of Illinois, drivers are usually concerned with encountering others who are unfit to be behind the wheel, including drivers of commercial vehicles. While industry and federal regulations have done much to try to curtail commercial drivers’ use of alcohol and other controlled substances, a large number of inebriated tuckers and bus drivers are still causing accidents. In response to the problem, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has proposed a rule that would establish an alcohol and drug clearinghouse for all commercial driver’s license holders in the nation.
The rule’s provisions
Under the rule’s requirements, all FMCSA-regulated truck and bus companies, Substance Abuse Professionals, Medical Review Officers, and third party USDOT testing laboratories would need to record information about a driver who does one of the following:
Participating labs would also be required to provide summary information on an annual basis.
Is a clearinghouse necessary?
Federal and state inspectors conduct random roadside inspections on drivers and their commercial vehicles to ensure compliance with regulations. The FMCSA reports that in 2013, there were 2,095 instances when drivers failed these inspections and were immediately cited for violating federal alcohol consumption regulations and placed out-of-service. There were also 1,240 occasions where an unannounced inspection found that a driver was under the influence of a controlled substance and was consequently placed out-of-service and cited for the federal violation. For 2013 alone, that is a total of 3,335 instances where potentially fatal tractor-trailer accidents could have occurred due to a driver’s negligence.
Potential effects of the proposal
Currently, federal regulations state that all CDL holders must undergo mandatory drug and alcohol testing to ensure that they remain sober at all times. Employers can demand a test randomly, after a driver is involved in a crash, or whenever a supervisor suspects a driver is violating regulations. Despite this, the results of the mandatory tests are not widely available to potential employers, so the regulation has little efficacy in preventing drivers from engaging in drunk driving or taking drugs.
The FMCSA believes that the creation of a clearinghouse would make the results of these tests widely available, allowing employers to hire only individuals who are capable of performing safety-sensitive duties. It would also enable them to evaluate their current drivers to ensure that they abstain from drug or alcohol use while they are employed. This has the potential to save thousands of individuals from dealing with the effects that a serious crash can cause.
Those that have sustained an injury due to the negligence of a commercial vehicle driver should contact a personal injury attorney to discuss their matter.