Sens. Wicker, Pryor, Snowe, and Nelson Seek Safer Highways

Bill Would Prevent Drug Users from Driving Big Rigs

May 20, 2009

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., today announced he has joined Sens. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and Ben Nelson, D-Neb., in introducing legislation that would close a well-known loophole in the commercial driving industry that currently enables drug and alcohol abusers to get behind the wheel of a large truck or bus.

The senators said despite drug and alcohol testing requirements for commercial drivers, truckers can continue to drive 18-wheelers and buses even after testing positive. Factors that contribute to this problem include applicants who do not report their drug testing history to new employers, carriers who do not fully complete background checks and self-employed drivers who fail to remove themselves from service. Data shows that between 1.3% and 2.8% of drivers test positive for the presence of illegal drugs under random testing. Every year, approximately 5,500 fatalities and 160,000 injuries result from large trucks and buses.

“Developing a centralized database for positive drug and alcohol test results will help give employers across the country the tools they need to ensure they aren’t putting drivers with substance abuse problems on our roads,” Sen. Wicker said.  “This is a feasible, common-sense approach to improving highway safety.”
“I don’t want my family sharing the road with truck and bus drivers under the influence of drugs or alcohol. I’m sure others feel the same way. We must change the status quo to ensure these drivers can’t skirt the law.” Pryor said.  “A national clearinghouse is a cost-effective, feasible solution to weed out bad apples and keep our roads safe.”

“This legislation will finally close the current loophole that allows irresponsible individuals to tarnish the good name of motor carrier operators,” said Senator Snowe, a senior member of the Senate Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over transportation issues.  “Giving companies the ability to ensure that all operators adhere to basic safety standards is a common sense initiative that will dramatically improve the safety of American roads and highways.”

“Creating a national drug and alcohol clearinghouse is a sensible approach to promote safe roads for both commercial and non-commercial drivers,” said Senator Nelson.  “This legislation gives trucking companies the confidence that they are putting safe drivers on the road to the benefit of those traveling our nation’s highways.”

The Safe Roads Act would implement a recommendation from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to establish a cost-effective, feasible database of drug testing information for commercial drivers. Specifically, it would authorize $5 million annually to develop and deploy the database and clearinghouse; require medical review officers, employers and other service agents to report positive results from drug or alcohol tests to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration; and require employers to check the database prior to hiring prospective employees. The bill also provides for privacy protections and employee rights of actions.