Life On The Road
Surprise: CDL drivers who fail drug test don’t tell
The federal government is widely considered the bane of all over-the-road professionals because of the massive number of rules and regulations it keeps dreaming up and enforcing on the trucking industry. Nevertheless, the feds do on occasion try to do things to make the highways safer and saner for everyone. Here are a few recent examples:
• CDL holders who fail a drug test generally do not inform prospective employers about test results, according to an investigation by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigated 37 cases in which commercial drivers had tested positive and then, within a month, had tested negative with another employer.
None of the 37 drivers disclosed the positive test results to their prospective employer, and 19 of those drivers were hired, even though the employers stated that a positive drug test would disqualify them from the job. When the GAO informed employers about the positive tests, the companies immediately fired the truckers.
Interviews with 12 of the 37 drivers revealed that none had undergone evaluation by a substance abuse professional before applying for a new job, even though such an evaluation is required. According to the Department of Transportation, 1.3 percent to 2.8 percent of truckers test positive for illegal drugs during random testing. But FMCSA Administrator John Hill said that “the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration aggressively enforces federal drug and alcohol regulations” and “that these efforts are working.” Hill noted that the number of fatalities involving large trucks dropped nearly 5 percent in 2006.
• The Senate restored solvency to the High-
way Trust Fund by voting to transfer $8 billion from the Treasury’s general fund into the trust fund. Had the Senate not acted, the fund, which pays for highway construction and repair, would have run dry in September, according to Transportation Secretary Mary Peters.
The fund’s balance has been falling since spring, when highway construction spending rose and the fund’s income decreased. The Senate had tried several times to transfer money into the Highway Trust Fund this year, but Republicans, who called the transfer “fiscal irresponsibility,” blocked the attempts before conceding.
Peters noted that the best long-term solution for solvency was a highway reauthorization plan that explores funding methods not based on fuel tax. The 52-year-old trust fund provides funding for nearly half of all surface transportation projects.
Just three years ago, it had a $10 billion surplus, but because drivers are driving more fuel-efficient vehicles and driving fewer miles, the fund’s income has dropped drastically. Congress has not raised the federal fuel tax since 1993, despite inflation and sharp increases in construction costs.
The federal fuel tax is 24.3 cents a gallon for diesel and 18.4 cents for gasoline.
Source: Roemer Report, FMCSA and DOT