Truck Drivers Using Hard Drugs
Truck at night

Despite an alarming amount of positive drug tests by commercial truck drivers, there is evidence that their illegal drug use is significantly underreported.

The dangers of commercial truck drivers using illegal drugs are obvious.  A truck driver’s delayed reaction, impaired decision-making, or acute drowsiness can cause a fatal truck accident.

Commercial truck drivers are tested for alcohol and drug use.  Previously, a failed drug test did not always threaten a truck driver’s job.  That’s because there was no mechanism for sharing a failed truck driver drug test among potential employers.

Until two years ago.

In January 2020, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration rolled out its Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse, the first-ever nationwide database of truck drivers who either failed a test for illegal drugs or alcohol, or refused to take one. Both scenarios are considered violations.

Drug Testing of Commercial Truck Drivers

Employers now are required to access the database before hiring a new truck driver.  Those found with drug or alcohol test violations cannot be hired until completing a federally mandated protocol, known as a return-to-duty process.

The number of documented truck driver drug test violations is disturbing.

The most recent month for available Clearinghouse results is November 2021.  From January 2020 through last November, there have been:

  • More than 106,000 total commercial truck driver drug test violations
  • Nearly 90,000 failed drug tests by commercial truck drivers

One truck safety organization says that these numbers don’t accurately reflect illegal drug use by truck drivers.  They are too low.

The Trucking Alliance, a coalition of truck industry concerns, teamed up with researchers from Central Arkansas University to examine truck driver drug testing, and this month released its findings.

Cocaine Use by Commercial Truck Drivers

The Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse relies on urine-based drug and alcohol testing.  The researchers determined a much higher rate of truck driver cocaine and marijuana use would be found if hair testing was used.

The Trucking Alliance includes trucking companies that use hair testing.  The researchers compared 1.4 million Clearinghouse test results with nearly 600,000 Trucking Alliance hair tests.

According to the research, twice as many truck drivers would have been suspended for a failed drug test in 2020 using the more stringent hair-testing method.  The projected number of truck drivers who failed a drug test that year alone would have been over 100,000.

The study says hair testing is much more reliable measure of truck drivers using cocaine, heroin or opioids.

The Clearinghouse truck driver test results indicate marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug.  But using hair testing, the researchers determined cocaine use would be higher than marijuana.

The research points out two big issues with truck driving safety.  First is the federal government’s use of a less stringent drug test method for commercial truck drivers. And second, there be many more commercial truckers using hard drugs than we know.

Negligent truck driver behavior such as illegal drug use can be deadly for others. If you were seriously injured or had a family member die in a crash with a commercial truck, speak with a truck accident attorney about pursuing your legal rights to just compensation.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.

Authored by Gray Ritter Graham, posted in Blog January 26, 2022


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