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February 18, 2021 E-Blast

Interesting article about how the Clearinghouse is cleaning house!

In an issue of Overdrive last week, there was an article about the Clearinghouse.  According to the article, the Clearinghouse is “putting a dent” in the pool of drivers that are available to employers. 

Here is a link to the article:
It’s true.  If you go to the monthly report on the Clearinghouse website,
you can see that in 2020 there were 52,000 drivers with a violation.  Almost 35,000 of those drivers have not yet started a return-to-duty process.  Exactly 2/3 of drivers with violations have not made an appointment with a SAP.
In the entire year of 2020, there were only 6,513 negative return-to-duty tests.  That means that only 12.5% of drivers with violations have successfully returned to their driving jobs.
28,558 of those violations were pre-employment tests.  It’s safe to assume that many of those applicants didn’t follow through with a SAP return-to-duty process.  They didn’t want to go through treatment that would have required them to give up drugs.
Before the Clearinghouse, those drivers would have probably ignored the fact that they had a violation, waited a few weeks, and then drove down the road to the next employer where they took another drug test.  Or a buddy told them about an employer who wasn’t testing their drivers, and they got hired there.
These numbers prove that the Clearinghouse is having a profound impact on public safety.  Drivers who are drug users are finding it impossible to stay in their jobs, and applicants who use drugs can’t get hired.
Getting back to the article, I was amused to see the photo at the top.  It shows a urine specimen and dip strips.  That’s a rapid test, which is not acceptable for a DOT test.  DOT requires all urine specimens to be sent to a certified laboratory for analysis.  And a laboratory certainly doesn’t use dip strips.

Don’t let yourself get sucked into an employee’s job search.

It’s getting harder for an employee to find a job when he has had a violation.  More and more employers are realizing that they don’t want to hire a new employee who is bringing along a follow-up testing plan.  The job market is full of drivers who have been unemployed during these COVID months.  When two drivers apply for the same position, one driver with a follow-up testing and the other with no previous violation, it’s no surprise that the employer will hire the driver with no follow-up testing plan.
Employees with violations should expect to have a tough time finding a job.  This is a hard reality.  Some of you have taken phone calls from employees who want to cry on your shoulder.  Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to help an employee get a job.  You need to be clear with the employee that you can’t talk to an employer on his/her behalf.  It’s not your job to help a driver get hired.
Regarding this, here’s a story.  In my January e-mails I talked about the Initial Report, and the fact that you Initial Report requires only your “treatment recommendation”.  I had a call from an employer last week, who read to me what a SAP had written in the Initial Report.  There were details about the employee’s drug use, family problems, legal troubles—nothing of which should ever be in a SAP report.  The employer said, “Someone needs to tell this SAP that I am not hiring this employee because of what was written in this report.”  (I did call the SAP and we did talk about it.)  But it’s a stark reminder to keep your SAP reports as brief as possible.  No details, please.
And now, getting back to the topic at hand, don’t let the employee pull you into his job search.  Once you enter the date of compliance on a driver’s dashboard, you are done.  Close the folder and put it in the file drawer.  (And lock the drawer).

FMCSA is stepping up offsite (virtual) audits of owner/operators

Yesterday’s issue of Overdrive carried an article about how FMCSA is increasing its virtual audits of owner/operators, partly due to limited onsite audits during the pandemic, but also because this has been in FMCSA’s plan for a few years. 

Here’s a link to the article:
Of the 13,000+ audits that FMCSA conducted in 2019, 10% were conducted remotely.  Contrast that to last year, 2020, when 11,400 audits were conducted, and 50% of those audits were conducted remotely.
I hear from many of you that small employers—Mom-n-Pop operations—don’t know the rules, and in many cases, they don’t care.  After reading this article, I’d say that FMCSA is shifting its focus from big trucking companies, who now have a fairly good understanding of the testing rules, to small employers, who we all agree aren’t as knowledgeable.  Read the article, and see what you think.
For the owner/operators whose C/TPA holds their testing information, auditors will request all documentation, including SAP reports, for their review.
We all know that employers have been slow to understand this regulation.  But that might be changing.
I hope you are staying safe and healthy.

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