News, Interviews, and Happenings From The Trucking World
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Not everyone happy with potential FMCSA clearinghouse delay
Last Updated: Fri, November 8, 2019
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's considering whether to delay implementation of one leg of the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse, originally set for full enforcement on January 6, 2020, has created a bit of drama in the trucking industry.
The controversy arises because the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators has asked for a three-year extension on the deadline for state driver licensing agencies to participate in the clearinghouse amid concerns about data privacy and other operational issues.
Basically, implementation of the clearinghouse means that three main trucking industry interests are required to query the database to vet new drivers, and to do an annual checkup on current drivers.
The three components include employers, state drivers licensing agencies, and numerous miscellaneous others like medical practitioners and those who do roadside checks. It's only the AAMVA, which represents state licensing agencies, that is asking for the delay.
AAMVA's request has some worried about the safety implications if state licensing agencies are not participating in the new system, because those licensing agencies would play a major role in keeping unqualified drivers off the streets. Some claim the delay would effectively cripple the intended safety benefit of the clearinghouse by potentially allowing unsafe drivers behind the wheel.
In an interview with FreightWaves, David Osiecki, who is president and CEO of Scopelitis Transportation Consulting, said, “There are three driver-related enforcement mechanisms to the clearinghouse — employer checks, roadside checks and State Driver Licensing Agencies. SDLAs are a major cog in this wheel because they’re responsible for renewing or upgrading” commercial driver’s licenses.
“When they’re taken out of the process, the wheel doesn’t turn as smoothly as it should and could have a major effect on enforcement and the intended benefits of the clearinghouse.”
A spokesperson for the American Trucking Associations expressed disappointment in AAMVA's request for the delay, but agreed that AAMVA should resolve its concerns and, if the delay is approved, FMCSA should encourage AAMVA to adopt procedures for making sure its compliance with the clearinghouse meets data security standards.
FreightWaves also interviewed Annette Sandberg, president of TransSafe Consulting and a former FMCSA administrator.
She agreed that state licensing agencies are an important part of the process and their absence in the clearinghouse could impact safety. But she also said that employer participation in vetting prospective new drivers and current drivers would go a long way toward achieving the purpose of the clearinghouse.
“Having run the agency before, if I were sitting in their shoes and there was a concern about data security, that has to take primary concern,” Sandberg told FreightWaves. “You don’t want someone’s private information being lost or someone hacking into the system and destroying it altogether.”
In any event, Sandberg concluded that the importance of getting the clearinghouse up and running, even with the extended deadline for state licensing agencies, outweighs the negatives of not having the state licensing agencies on board.
OOIDA offers its opinion
A spokesperson for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association offered a different take on the controversy.
President Todd Spencer wrote a formal comment to FMCSA concerning its proposal to extend the deadline for state licensing agencies another three years. His thesis is that granting a deadline extension for only one segment of those required to comply would cause confusion for the trucking industry.
“OOIDA cautions that extending the compliance date for the requirement that states request information from the commercial driver’s license drug and alcohol clearinghouse before completing certain CDL transactions until Jan. 26, 2023, may cause confusion for the industry,” Spencer wrote. “Drivers might interpret any delay in the clearinghouse as a delay to the entire program, thus failing to register at the proper time."
He argues that since the final rule was published in December 2016 state licensing agencies have had the same amount of time as everyone else in the industry to prepare to participate in the clearinghouse and work out any potential data security issues.
OOIDA's solution to eliminate confusion is to delay full implementation for the whole program.
“OOIDA recommends that FMCSA consider delaying the Jan. 6, 2020, implementation date not only for states but for all industry stakeholders,” Spencer wrote. “Registration has only recently opened for drivers and motor carriers, who now have just three months left before the clearinghouse is scheduled to launch. A broader delay would allow the entire industry sufficient opportunity to register and would provide additional time for the agency to ensure and efficient rollout.”
Registration is now open to all
Secure online user account registrations are now being accepted for commercial drivers, employers, medical review officers and substance abuse professionals prior to the January 6, 2020, deadline.
Registration and compliance is voluntary until the hard deadline.
FMCSA Administrator Raymond Martinez says he recommends all CMV stakeholders start the registration process in the clearinghouse now in order to be familiar with its operation before its use becomes mandatory.
Drug and Alcohol Testing
Pre-Employment Screening Program