Nearly eight months after its creation, Arkansas’ one-of-a-kind online alcohol and drug test database for commercial truck drivers is getting positive feedback – and it’s being looked at as a possible model for developing a similar system for tracking alcohol and drug test results on a national basis.
An Arkansas law enacted in 2007 required the database to be established – it goes by the clunky name of “The Online Commercial Driver Alcohol and Drug Testing Result Database” – and required employers to search it prior to hiring a commercial driver. Olathe, KS-based NIC, an “eGovernment” services provider, won the contract to develop the database and had it ready to go in four months.
“In comparison with other online development work we’ve done, establishing this database was a pretty quick project,” Janet Grard, gm of the Arkansas portal, told FleetOwner. “The goal was to create an easy way to check alcohol and drug test histories of commercial driver applicants in real time. An online searchable database allows for that.”
Since its launch in January, more than 5,100 commercial driver records have been searched and 263 positive test results have been reported to the database. Of those searches, 45 generated a positive match – and if the commercial driver is found to have a positive or refused drug or alcohol test result on their record, the employer cannot hire the driver.
According to the law, employers and medical review officers are required to report any positive or refused alcohol or drug test results to the state-managed database within three business days. “Carriers can submit the tests results online via the Internet or by paper record, which are then manually entered into the database,” Grard said. “It’s all designed to weed out the bad apples, so a driver can’t fail a test at one company, wait a while, then go down the street and get hired by another one because now, as their system is clean, they pass the tests.”
Employers and medical review officers (MROs) must register for an online account at http://www.Arkansas.gov before they can use the database (some 6,000 companies and MROs are currently registered, noted Grard). Searching and reporting within the database requires only the commercial driver’s CDL number and date of birth. The system reports violations to the driver’s alcohol and drug record in the same way that commercial driving records are updated. All information is accessed through Arkansas.gov’s secure online system, Grard said.
While five states collect commercial driver alcohol and drug test results into a central database, Arkansas is the only one that has the database available online for real-time reporting, noted Grard – which creates some limitations.
“For example, if a driver from Missouri or Oklahoma tries to hire on with an Arkansas carrier and fails a drug test, we can’t load that information into the database because they are from out of state,” she explained to FleetOwner. “We can’t search or report on out-of-state drivers. That’s where a national database would come in.”
Truckload carrier J.B. Hunt Transportation Services – which helped lobby for the formation of Arkansas’ online drug test result database – wants to broaden the use of such online systems across the country. “Drivers are the most important people at our company and this service helps to ensure they are safe vehicle operators,” said David Whiteside, J.B. Hunt’s senior director of compliance. “This online service is incredibly valuable to our company and we’d like to see it offered by every state.”
“We must do our best to keep drug abusers out of our trucks and off our highways, and this Arkansas law is helping to make sure they don’t get a job as a truck driver,” said Lane Kidd, president of the Arkansas Trucking Association. “We would also support a federal law that would create a national database like Arkansas has.”