FMCSA is beginning to take a victory lap on the roll-out of the Clearinghouse. In late February 2020, the agency issued a press release touting the more than 650,000 registrants and the nearly 8,000 positive test results (or refusals to test) that have been uploaded into the system. But what does this mean? Let’s take a look at the numbers.
In the first seven weeks of the program, 8,000 (rounded up for simplification) positive or refusals to test were uploaded into the Clearinghouse. That’s about 1,150 positives every week. Extrapolated to account for a year of testing, that’s 59,800 drivers annually who will become ineligible to drive (for at least a period of time), or about 1 percent of the industry. So, is the industry doomed? Will freight stop moving?
Fortunately, no. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the industry gained just over 52,000 heavy truck drivers from 2017-2018 and experts expect this trend to continue. Assuming some of the 59,000 disqualified drivers (annually) complete the required treatment and return to the industry, natural growth should cover any shortfall. Losing drivers is never a good thing in an otherwise tight labor market, but are the ones being disqualified really the ones the industry wants behind the wheel? Of course not. Safety wins. Go ahead FMCSA, take your victory lap.
Note: As we drafted this piece, the Clearinghouse was temporarily down again due to connectivity issues related to the Commercial Drivers License Information System (CDLIS). The Clearinghouse relies on CDLIS to verify and validate the name and CDL number of a driver when a query is made. This temporary CDLIS connectivity problem started on March 5, 2020. Connectivity was restored on March 9, 2020.