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Former Traffic Court Judge Serving New York and New Jersey

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New database to track drug and alcohol use of commercial drivers

People who hold commercial drivers’ licenses in New York must abide by the same traffic laws that other drivers follow. In addition, they are subject to oversight from the government agency, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. This organization recently announced its plans to develop a comprehensive system built around a database to track and monitor drug and alcohol use among drivers in an effort to curb drugged or drunk driving.

The FMCSA indicates that the program, referred to as the drug and alcohol clearinghouse rule, will require that all substance abuse professionals, medical review officers or others reasonably known to have access to data indicative of drivers’ drug or alcohol use report illegal activity, drug test refusals, drug test failures or impaired driving convictions to the FMCSA. Currently, employers are required to randomly test their employees each year, ensuring that at least half of all drivers are tested for drugs and 10 percent or more of drivers are tested for alcohol.

The Commercial Carrier Journal reported that the database will be in full effect as of late 2015 or potentially early 2016 and will not only target drivers convicted of DUI or related offenses but those who even fail screening tests. Some of the specific parameters of the program include:

  • Drivers who refuse to take drug or alcohol tests will be allowed to work but only in limited capacities which will not include the operation of commercial vehicles.
  • The FMCSA will be required to return all database query results within seven days from the data the original inquiry was made.
  • Individual owner-operators must work with approved consortiums or third parties to facilitate fair and authorized testing.
  • All results can be appealed by drivers.
  • Any DUI arrests that do not result in convictions must be removed from drivers’ records within two business days.

Additionally, specific provisions will outline the means by which drivers can return to work after test failures, DUI convictions or other issues. Drivers who do not complete the indicated return-to-duty process will have their violations be part of their permanent records.

Full record screenings will only be allowed with the written consent of drivers but annual review screenings will not require this. All commercial drivers in New York should become educated about the impact of this new clearinghouse database and how they can prevent serious consequences in the face of impaired driving test failures, charges and more. 

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