Movie production drivers seek flexibility in drug clearinghouse

A trucking compliance company specializing in the motion picture industry contends that query requirements of the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse are driving up production costs.

To alleviate the problem, Los Angeles-based Motion Picture Compliance Solutions (MPCS) has asked the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) for a renewable five-year exemption from having to conduct a full query of the clearinghouse as part of its initial pre-employment driver screening process.

MPCS is currently operating under a temporary 90-day waiver from the full-query requirement, granted by the FMCSA in February and extending until May 5.

The exemption would apply only to members of MPCS, who employ drivers hauling property or passengers to or from theatrical, commercial or television motion picture production sites.

Compliance with the existing rules, which state that employers — or third-party administrators such as MPCS — must conduct a full query of the clearinghouse as part of each pre-employment investigation, “significantly slow down our members’ ability to hire at the speed needed to keep pace with the needs of the demands of the motion picture industry, subsequently increasing the number of production days and adding millions of dollars of increased production costs operating in the United States,” the group asserted.

“Furthermore, the unique driver employment model of the theatrical, commercial or television motion picture production industry, and safety protocols it already has in place, create an environment that significantly reduces the likelihood that a full pre-employment query would yield any information not already known by MPCS and/or its member companies, rendering a full query a redundant and unnecessarily burdensome requirement.”

Limited queries — which only reveal if a substance abuse record exists for a particular driver — are conducted by employers for drivers who are currently employed. They require only a driver’s general consent, which is obtained outside the clearinghouse.

Under MPCS’s exemption, the company would be allowed to conduct such a query before one of its member employers hires a driver for a project. If the limited query reveals information about the driver exists, the driver would then be subject to a full query providing more details of his or her record that would show whether he or she is prohibited from driving.

The group pointed out that hauling for the motion picture and television industry is different from traditional trucking. “The main purpose of drivers in the entertainment industry is to transport crew members and filming equipment to filming locations, driving an average of 1-2 hours each workday. Providing this support service is, by nature, a short-term endeavor.”

Driver pools maintained by local unions are static by nature, with little driver turnover, MPCS noted. In 2019 only 6% of drivers hired by its members were new to the motion picture industry out of a total of approximately 12,000 drivers.

The clearinghouse became active on Jan. 6 and ran into initial startup problems, but has since compiled more than 10,000 positive test results, an FMCSA spokesman confirmed to FreightWaves on March 5.