Pennsylvania trucking group wants database of driver drug tests

| 4/13/2006

The Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association, with the backing of the ATA, is hoping to set up a statewide database of employer records on drivers’ drug test results.

Several such databases already exist in other states, such as Washington, Oregon, North Carolina and Texas

Don Siekerman, safety director for the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association, told Land Line that the idea for the database is still in its very early infancy.

“It’s in the preliminary stages of inquiry right now to see if it’s even feasible through privacy laws, which in Pennsylvania are stricter than in other states,” he said.

Siekerman said that, if it does come to fruition, the database would either operate as a separate entity containing drug and alcohol testing records for drivers, or the data would be incorporated into a driver’s CDL information.

Siekerman said no matter how it’s handled, only two entities would likely have access to the database – the state and federal governments, and a given driver’s employer or prospective employer.

But Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, said it doesn’t matter how the database is handled – the very idea of it is off the mark.

“The proposal that they’ve laid out clearly does raise a variety of privacy issues with truck drivers, but it also ignores the reality that exists for truck drivers today,” he said.

Spencer said the reality is that drivers are already required to be drug tested before they can go to work for most employers, and they are tested again randomly thereafter.

“So all of the safeguards that are reasonable in terms of making sure drugs aren’t a factor with truck drivers are already in place and required of employers,” he said.

What’s more, Spencer said the databases ignore the bigger picture of what’s going on in the trucking industry.

“The core issue here, that’s challenging for companies is that they go through so many drivers and they are looking for anything they can that can sort of help provide them with more warm bodies, and that kind of misses the mark,” he said. “The focus shouldn’t be on how many new people we can hire, but the things that we need to do to make sure the good drivers we have stay this year, next year and ten years down the road.”

– By Terry Scruton, senior writer