FirstGroup America, the operating company for school bus contractor First Student, hailed a proposal from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in February to create a drug and alcohol clearinghouse for all commercial driver's license (CDL) holders in the U.S.
"Establishing a national clearinghouse would be an enormous step forward for improving roadway safety," said Gary Catapano, senior vice president of safety. "We fully support initiatives that encourage the employment of safe drivers who follow drug and alcohol requirements."
Federal regulations require employers to conduct mandatory pre-employment screening of a CDL driver's qualifications based upon his or her driving record. But there has not been a single federal repository recording positive drug and alcohol tests for employers to search.
The FMCSA proposal would create such a repository, a one-stop verification point. The plan also would require employers to conduct pre-employment searches for all new CDL drivers and annual searches on current drivers.
The clearinghouse proposal protects driver privacy because each CDL holder would need to provide consent before an employer could access the national database. Drivers who refuse could still be employed by a bus company, but could not drive a bus.
The proposal stems from a 1999 bus crash in New Orleans in which 22 passengers were killed. The investigation revealed marijuana in the driver's system. The driver also failed a pre-employment drug testing when applying for previous positions, a fact not revealed or known to the current employer. The driver also failed to disclose on his employment application a previous employer who fired him after a positive drug test.
The proposed rule announced on Feb. 21 was directed by Congress in the most recent transportation bill, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act.