FLORIDA/TEXAS—Knowing just how important it is right now to make every strategy work towards the common goal of increasing the labor force in the trucking industry, the not very enticing news is there’s an increase in positive drug tests vs. prior year.
According to recent data from the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, the 2022 increase doubled over previous year, led by marijuana violations increased by 31% and most identified substance in positive tests. The clearinghouse states this may be the highest level since the federal repository was set up in 2019 taking into consideration the change for 2020 to 2021 was only an increase of 5.3%. There has been speculation about state that have legalized the substance having a direct impact to the increase, although federal law preempts state laws regarding the use of both medicinal and recreational marijuana by commercial drivers.
The report also includes an increase in 12 of 14 substances tracked by the database, with only hydrocodone and heroin showing decreases.
Some of the increase in total violations can be attributed to the fact that completed registrations from drivers, employers and third-party organizations have been added each year since the clearinghouse began accepting registrations in September 2019. However, the number of registrations added annually has steadily declined since 2020 as the database gradually fills with all FMCSA-regulated registrants.
On the other side, the trucking industry has been utilizing hair testing for employment for several years and contends that hair testing is more reliable and accurate in detecting regular drug use as opposed to urine testing. It also eliminates certain vulnerabilities in collecting samples being unable to verify observe the supply of urine. Trucking companies may use hair testing to make their own determination as to whether a driver is fit to drive, but a hair test alone does not subject the driver to the FMCSA regulatory processes that apply to a positive urine test, such as being disqualified from driving until a return to duty protocol has been completed. Positive hair tests may also not be reported to the drug and alcohol clearinghouse, so if a company fires a driver based upon a hair test, the prospective employer would not be able to tell from the clearinghouse that the driver had a positive drug test. This reduces the effectiveness of the clearinghouse, which was intended to aid in information sharing between employers.
Some industry executives consider these figures a little conflicting, but they clearly see the benefit of a working clearinghouse providing guidelines as intended. However, the number of registrations added annually has steadily declined since 2020 as the database gradually fills with all FMCSA-regulated registrants.
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