Channel 19

Todd Dills

How the national drug/alcohol clearinghouse could save you

| April 09, 2013

drug testIn some senses, to read the comments under the recent story on the rule that would establish a national database of positive drug/alcohol tests for use of employers as a handy cross-check when considering a new hire, you’d think the world was ending. One commenter brought up the examples of Hitler’s Nazi Germany and authoritarian communism in Russia, which started out with “regulations” piling on, he wrote, then getting to a more salient point. “Companies need to take care of the problems. We are over-regulated already. My old company put one idiot drug dealer through two rehabs and he was still using and selling.”

The national test-results database would in fact be one tool to help those companies to “take care of the problems” on the front end, as I was reminded during a conversation with Rich Wilson of Trans Products Trans Services about some of his work helping customer carriers through FMCSA interventions. He told the story of an independent owner-operator who’d put on a second truck and hired a driver that, ultimately, was the cause of an FMCSA investigation of his operation.

“We’ve filed a Corrective Action Plan,” says Wilson of where the case stands today, and it looks like the owner-operator is in the clear — for now.

But not without a boatload of time and expense outlaid — hassle, as it were — clearing the whole mess up. Here’s what happened:

The new driver hire had previously been working for another small fleet in the owner-operator’s area. The small fleet’s owner “became rather sick and has since died,” Wilson says. “The driver knew his boss was going to pass away and started looking for another job.” The owner-operator in question “put on another truck for this driver. The owner-operator checked the driver out – what he didn’t know was that DOT had done an audit on the driver’s previous employer and this driver had had a positive drug test uncovered during the investigation.” When DOT came back to follow up and found that the driver’s employer had died, “they asked for a list of places where the drivers had gone,” says Wilson.

The owner-operator, then, “got the flag for a driver who doesn’t have the all-clear to return to work – they nailed him square to the wall.” The Corrective Action Plan filed with FMCSA now has the owner-operator providing drug and alcohol abuse training, though the driver in question is of course no longer with him.

“We’re kind of in this begging mode,” says Wilson. “We file the CAP with a lot of fat and we send that at the mercy of the decision makers to show that this guy is being compliant — and wasn’t really that out of compliance as it was. If a fine ultimately does come in, we can appeal that fine [for, hopefully, FMCSA to] cut him a break — most of the time they do, but because this is drug and alcohol, they’re tough on that.”

So here’s a guy offered the opportunity of a job, and he won’t tell anybody he has a positive drug test on his record. “My argument with FMCSA was, ‘Listen, [the owner-operator] did everything within his available legal regulatory powers — he did what he was supposed to do. In the defense of the national clearinghouse [for positive drug tests], that’s the very purpose of it, if it protects the carrier.”

Something to think about. 

  • Erick Steyer

    I’m all for it most jobs have some sort of drug testing now it is just more accessible to companies If there is an issue then it may be because there is an issue.

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  • Mike Jones

    Those test results have been recorded for years at N.I.D.A.
    positive or negative…the results are available.

  • Mike Jones

    It has been written on the green form….the test results are property of the federal Gov owned National Institute for Drug Addiction…remains on file 2 years….been going on for 25 years.

  • EF McHenry

    Todd on this one i totally disagree with you. This is another example of what I’ve been screaming from rooftops on the use of govt by business. I agrue that corporations and business use the power of govt to their benefit all at tax payer expense! And so called limited govt republicans love it as much as the democrats. Corporations and business use all forms of govt. In this instance, as with all other affairs of the trucking industry it’s federal. Motor carriers are using the DOT; FMCSA agency as a Logistical Management tool or instrument to: a)create programs like the drug/alcohol
    b)rules(EOBR, CPAP)
    d)standards(think entry level for smaller companies)
    g)licensing requirements
    etc, etc that tilt the playing field in favor of the entity that ends up realizing their wish list. Again at the expense of the taxpayer, the competition and the worker labor too. Sorry but on this one i Strongly But Respectfully Disagree!

  • Jason Johnson

    Nice posting…
    owner operator jobs

  • Lee Brau

    My biggest fear, and always has been, is a problem similar to that we have with CSA. If inaccurate or erroneous information is placed on record with a driver, there must be a way to have it removed. Unproven claims or statements should never be posted to a record, as warning citations are on CSA. And free reviews need to be available to the driver always. This is their career, it needs to be in safer hands than the Fed has proven to be.

  • James M.Stepp

    Same as Background Checks when we buy our guns. Originally,the agreement that got Background Checks voted in dictated that once they had a YES or NO answer,the personal information was to be deleted. Didn’t happen. The Feds archived it,and has done ever since. Now they want to violate more agreements by including our Medical records,which were SUPPOSED to be protected from this by LAW. Sorry for the rant-this just REALLY pi$$es me off. For how long now has the Government been proving that they can’t be trusted to do what they agree to do? And now they want US to trust THEM with our health care?

  • john doe

    I really don’t see the problem. Drugs are illegal. Anyone can hide a failure this closes that loop hole. When its your money on the line you tend to see things not quite the same. there are ways to check for false positive, i.e.,the second sample collected at testing site. Hey guys lets face it I don’t know anyone that tested positive that wasn’t using something. strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.