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It’s now tougher for truckers to get the all-clear, thanks to the Clearinghouse.

“We have a huge drug abuse problem in the trucking industry, and should actually purge an estimated 300,000 commercial drivers to clean it up,” says Lane Kidd, Managing Director of the Trucking Alliance. “No wonder truck accidents are on the rise.”

Sobering estimate, huh? 

Enter the US DOT Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse

Earlier this month, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) officially rolled out the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse, a secure online database that standardizes and provides authorized users with the records of professional drivers.

With access to The Clearinghouse, employers, the FMCSA, State Driver Licensing Agencies (SDLAs), and State law enforcement personnel will have information about any drug or alcohol program violations on the records of commercial driver’s license (CDL) and commercial learner’s permit (CLP) holders.

This means it will no longer be possible for drivers who have committed a drug and alcohol program violation while working for one employer to get hired by another employer by failing to report the violation. Instead, the Clearinghouse will keep detailed records on each driver (including limo drivers, school bus drivers, construction equipment operators and sanitation drivers, too, not just truckers) that potential employers can access to improve hiring practices. It also makes it possible for prospective employers to obtain substance abuse history from companies that have gone out of business, or obtaining information from companies that do not cooperate timely with background check requests.

“The Clearinghouse will identify drivers who move frequently and obtain CDLs in different states and link those CDLs,” says the FMCSA, “in order to maintain complete and accurate information on such drivers.”

Its database will retain records of drivers with reported violations of the current regulations including:

  • Reporting for duty or remain on duty for safety-sensitive functions with an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or greater
  • Reporting for duty or remaining on duty for safety-sensitive functions while using any drug specified in Part 40 of the regulations, other than those prescribed by a licensed medical practitioner 
  • Using alcohol while performing, or within four hours of performing, a safety-sensitive function
  • Using alcohol within eight hours of an accident, or before submitting a post-accident test, whichever occurs first 
  • Testing positive for use of Clearinghouse-specified drugs 
  • Refusing to submit to a required alcohol or drug test (which automatically registers as a failure)

These driver consent records will be retained in the database for five years.The Clearinghouse was created by an act of Congress directive to the Secretary of Transportation, with the primary intent of improving highway safety. Once it’s fully operational, the Clearinghouse will:

  • Make it easier for employers to investigate and report on potential drivers
  • Make it harder for drivers to hide drug and alcohol violations from current or prospective employers
  • Provide roadside inspectors and other enforcement personnel with the means to ensure that drivers receive required evaluation and treatment before performing safety-sensitive functions
  • Make it easier for FMCSA to determine employer compliance with testing, investigation, and reporting requirements

“The Clearinghouse provides FMCSA and employers the necessary tools to identify drivers who are prohibited from operating a CMV based on U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) drug and alcohol program violations,” the FMCSA says, “and ensures that such drivers receive the required evaluation and treatment before operating a CMV on public roads.”

When do Clearinghouse rules apply?

As of this month, “employers will be required to conduct both electronic queries and traditional manual inquiries with previous employers to meet the three-year timeframe … for checking CDL driver violation histories,” says the FMCSA. “Drivers may also view their own records for information recorded on or after January 6, 2020.”  Once three years of violation data are stored in the Clearinghouse, employers will no longer be required to obtain the traditional manual inquiries from previous employers.

However, the FMCSA recently extended the compliance date for state agencies by three years, to give state motor vehicle agencies more time to configure their IT systems to interact securely and accurately with the Clearinghouse. 

“The compliance date extension allows FMCSA the time needed to complete its work on a forthcoming rulemaking to address the states’ use of driver-specific information from the clearinghouse and time to develop the information technology platform through which states will electronically request and receive clearinghouse information,” the agency said.

The Clearinghouse regulations require FMCSA-regulated employers, Medical Review Officers, Substance Abuse Professionals, consortia/third party administrators, and other service agents to report violations of the substance abuse regulations for current and prospective employees. The Clearinghouse regulations also require employees to query the Clearinghouse for prospective employees’ drug and alcohol violations before permitting those employees to operate a commercial motor vehicle AND to annually query the Clearinghouse for each driver they currently employ.

What does this mean for the logistics industry? 

Cracking down on drug and alcohol program violations does mean that the shortage of truck drivers will become even more severe. And once upcoming federal regulations enforce hair testing of drivers rather than just urinalysis, the gap will continue to widen. 

Draft guidelines for government-wide hair testing “have been distributed to all federal agencies for a second round of comment and review, and the length of time for review will be determined by the Office of Management and Budget,” the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services confirmed in early December.

A recent study by the Trucking Alliance, based on 3.5 million commercial drivers and projecting a 99% confidence level, says that more than 300,000 truck drivers currently on the road would fail or refuse a hair analysis. 

“The test results indicated a major discrepancy between the number of drivers who failed a urinalysis drug screen and those who failed a hair test,” The Trucking Alliance said. “While 949 (0.6%) applicants failed the urine test, 12,824 (8.5%) either failed or refused to submit to a hair test. The US Department of Transportation classifies refusals to submit to a drug or alcohol screening as a failure. This yielded a hair test failure rate 14.2 times greater than urine.”

Not only will these enforcements cut down on the pool of truckers driving today, they may also affect the pool of new drivers willing to fill the resulting demand. 

“I think a 3% capacity reduction within the first six months of the year is realistic and will have a material impact on what the supply-demand dynamic looks like in 2020,” Derek Leathers, president and CEO of Werner Enterprises told FreightWaves.

Looking on the bright side

Sure, the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse is likely to result in some short-term demand for drivers, which may slow some of your shipments. But for Agforce, this means we’ll ultimately have even more confidence in the drivers we work with … and you can have more confidence in them, too. 

If you have any questions about the Clearinghouse, how it works, how it’s used, when it goes into effect or how it will affect your business, reach out. We’re happy to talk you through it. Call us at 877.367.2324 or email us at inquiry@agforcets.com.

Have You Thanked A Truck Driver Today?

We have – It’s National Truck Driver Appreciation Week! The Agforce team appreciates its truck drivers more than we can express every week, but we love having the opportunity to thank them officially and publicly once a year.

This year, we’re visiting some of our local carriers bearing gifts as a thanks for everything they do. We’re also sharing some of the coolest, most mind-blowing facts about truck drivers and the truck driving industry so that all of you can share in our awe of these men and women who quite literally keep America running. 

Truck Driver

Understanding the Importance of Truck Drivers

In 2018, there were 3.5 million men and women employed as truck drivers in the United States, and 7.8 million people employed in jobs related to trucking (hey, that’s us!), not even counting the self-employed. Business Insider did the math and determined that almost six percent of all Americans with full-time jobs did something related to truck driving. And a study by National Public Radio found that “trucker driver” was the most dominant job in 29 U.S. states, including California and Texas. That means even without taking into account all the industries truck drivers support, they are crucial to our nation’s economy on their own. 

Then, consider how much the rest of our economic ecosystem relies on truck drivers: Trucks moved roughly 71.4% of the nation’s freight by weight in 2018, according to the American Trucking Association (ATA), which means without their drivers, virtually every other industry – from agriculture to healthcare to technology to food service to retail – would grind to a halt. Business owners, consumers and those in need of life-saving services would suffer almost immediately. 

As it is, a truck-driving career isn’t without suffering of its own. Drivers put in up to 70 hours behind the wheel every week, and drive almost 300 billion miles a year, combined. These grueling hours can mean weeks at a time away from home, reduced access to healthcare and nutritious foods, lack of physical activity throughout the day and a lot of solitude. It’s not a career that’s a good fit for everyone, making our appreciation for those who love it and do it well even greater. 

Because the domestic trucking industry isn’t affected by automation or offshoring, two of the biggest threats to the American workforce, the need for qualified, reliable truck drivers will only continue to grow. The ATA projects overall freight tonnage to “grow to 20.6 billion tons in 2030, up 25.6% from 2019’s projection of 16.4 billion tons. Truck drivers will continue to make a major contribution to society for decades to come, and we plan to continue thanking them for at least that long. 

Agforce is growing quickly, and we recognize none of that growth would be possible without the network of carriers who allow us to be as agile and responsive as our customers expect. Our truck drivers get us where we’re going – literally and figuratively. 

Want to thank a truck driver today? Use the hashtag #ThankADriver on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter. Want to partner with Agforce? Reach out! You can call us at 844.713.6723 or email us at inquiry@agforcets.com.

National Truck Driver Appreciation Week and Beyond — Thank a Truck Driver

From the alarm clock you snooze in the morning to the TV you Netflix and chill with at night, it’s likely you have a truck driver to thank for making all the things you need, want and enjoy in your life accessible. We appreciate our driver partners every day, and we love the spotlight they enjoy during National Truck Driver Appreciation Week. It is a great time to reflect on all they do to keep our nation connected.

Let’s take a minute to explore the importance of truck drivers. They are undoubtedly the center of the freight industry, making it possible to move goods from here to there. Could they also be the hub of our general society? Think about the important institutions that would have trouble obtaining resources without truck drivers, like hospitals or prisons.

In an article by TruckerPlanet.net, they consider a world sans drivers. Their article states in the first 24 hours without truck drivers hospital, service station, and manufacturing operations would be impacted, as well as food supply. In the days that follow, supplies would become scarce and food shortage would be a concern — not to mention waste build up. Imagining this scenario makes it quite easy to give thanks to the men and women that help keep us cared for and fed.

It also shows just how important the trucking industry is to our national economy, contributing nearly $739 billion in revenue a year. About 70 percent of all freight tonnage is transported by truck, and 80 percent of U.S. communities are supplied by trucking deliveries.

There are currently 15.5 million trucks in operation traveling more than four million miles of roads. We imagined a world without drivers, but even a drop in the number of truckers on the road would have significant consequences. It would almost immediately translate to slower delivery times and higher priced goods.

Truck Driving is Hard

Let’s not forget what truck drivers give up to help us stay connected and productive, starting with the time they spend away from family and friends. Driving about 125,000 miles a year, they may have around 3 weeks between nights in their own bed.

In addition, a truck driver’s health can suffer. Over the road drivers may not have a lot of choice when it comes to healthy food selection, and sitting for long periods of time is not good for anyone. Seeing a doctor or health care professional in general can be a challenge for truck drivers with their schedules allowing for limited time at home.

And how can we not mention the dangers drivers face on the road itself? We need our drivers safe. That is easier said than done when you’re hauling 45,000 pounds or more during rush hour in Chicago, in the dark of night around sharp corners, or in frigid conditions while snow starts to accumulate. That is more than most of us would be willing to put on the line. It takes a lot of skill to navigate the roads in a truck.

Showing Appreciation

Long story short, drivers do more for us in our everyday life than what is typically recognized. From keeping gas in the stations to apples in the store, they keep us connected to the goods we cannot live without – often at a cost to their personal lives. With that in mind, let’s remember to thank our hardworking truck drivers during National Driver Appreciation Week, and every day that follows. They truly deserve respect and appreciation for the work they do to keep our country moving.

Together, we can simplify logistics. Contact us today for a free consultation. Give us a call at 844.713.6723 or email us at inquiry@agforcets.com.

 

What’s Driving the Trucker Shortage?

The U.S. trucking industry is short of drivers—about 50,000 short, according to an October 2017 estimate from the American Trucking Associations (ATA). The developing driver drought is a critical issue that has captured the attention of the trucking world: In an annual survey conducted by the American Transportation Research Institute, driver shortage ranked first among industry concerns.

A number of factors are contributing to the shortage, ranging from economic trends to demographic and regulatory shifts to the rigors of the job:

  • Freight volumes are on the rise, thanks to healthy commerce and a strengthening economy.
  • The average driver age for commercial truck drivers in the U.S. is 55, and 25 percent of current drivers near retirement age.
  • The trucking industry is having trouble attracting younger people to the profession. One issue is that prospective drivers must be 21 years old to hold an interstate commercial driver’s license. That typically means three years after high school, by which point many potential candidates have pursued jobs in other sectors.
  • A range of federal regulations—most recently the Elog mandate put in place in April—require truckers to track the time they work, which can impact productivity, and thus pay.
  • The long hours and requirements of the job can limit its appeal. Most drivers—especially newer ones—are on the road for extended periods of time, returning home only a few times a month. Adapting to life on the road (showering at rest stops, limited dietary choices, safety issues, and more) can make the job less appealing to some.
  • Drivers must pass a DOT (Department of Transportation) physical at least every two years. Some with specific health issues must do this annually. A lot of times the driver must pay for the physical out of their own pocket.
  • Sleep apnea and diabetes can disqualify a driver if certain criteria are not met.
  • Carriers cannot find drivers that can pass the required drug test at hire and then randomly throughout their employment.

The ATA estimates that because of industry growth and retirements, the trucking sector will need to recruit nearly 100,000 new drivers every year to keep up with the demand for drivers. The shortage is particularly acute in the long-haul, over-the-road truckload segment.

There are steps the trucking industry can take to help address the need for drivers:

  • Try to expand the demographic. For example, women currently make up only 6 percent of the truck drivers. Some observers see veterans seeking career transition after military service as another good potential source of prospective truckers.
  • Continue to boost driver wages. The national median for truck driver pay is $53,000, which represents a $7,000 increase from the previous year. For private fleet drivers, the pay increase is up $13,000.
  • Decrease time on the road. Trucking companies can address lifestyle issues of the profession by offering route options that are closer to drivers’ homes, reducing the long-haul lifestyle aspects of the job.

The truck driver shortage affects the entire economy and could have a significant impact on supplier costs and shipping delays. Agforce Transport Services monitors and tracks trucking industry developments like the driver shortage to provide informed consultation to customers.

Agforce specializes in customized transportation solutions for our customers’ specific business requirements. To learn more about how we can help address your company’s needs, contact us today for a free consultation. Give us a call at 844-713-6723 or email us at inquiry@agforcets.com.