by Hal Mattern
Trucking Alliance calls for stricter screening protocols
A prominent trucking safety alliance has warned Congress that more than 300,000 truck drivers have managed to circumvent the federal drug screening system and likely would fail or refuse to take a stringent drug test.
The Alliance for Driver Safety & Security, known as the Trucking Alliance and whose members include major trucking companies, said in a statement to a congressional subcommittee that it compiled survey data “showing compelling evidence that thousands of habitual drug users are manipulating federal drug test protocols and obtaining jobs as commercial truck drivers.”
The survey compared the pre-employment drug test results of 151,662 truck driver applicants who were asked to submit to two drug tests: a urinalysis and a hair analysis.
Ninety-four percent of the truck driver applicants tested drug-free, the Trucking Alliance said in its statement to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.
“However, thousands of applicants failed either or both drug tests,” the statement said. Based on what the Trucking Alliance asserted is a statistically valid sample of 3.5 million commercial drivers, the survey projects with a 99 percent confidence level and less than one percent margin of error that 301,000 truck drivers currently on the road would fail or refuse a hair analysis.
“The survey results are compelling evidence that thousands of habitual drug users are skirting a system designed to prohibit drug use in transportation,” the Trucking Alliance said. “Thousands of drug abusers are obtaining jobs as truck drivers, despite their drug use.”
The Alliance said the failure of the U.S. Department of Transportation to require hair analysis for truck driver applicants is a major cause of the problem. USDOT currently requires only a urinalysis, although many trucking companies, including Trucking Alliance members, also require hair analysis.
“Alarmingly, the urinalysis, the only method recognized by USDOT, and relied on by almost all trucking company employers, actually failed to identify most drug abusers,” the Trucking Alliance said in its statement. “The urinalysis detected drugs in 949 applicants, about one percent of the population. However, 8.6 percent, or 8,878 truck driver applicants, either failed or refused the hair test. Put another way, the urinalysis missed nine out of 10 actual illicit drug users.
“The most prevalent drug was cocaine, followed by opioids and marijuana. Applicants who failed or refused the hair test were disqualified for employment at these companies, but likely obtained the same job elsewhere, at companies that administer only a urinalysis.”
The Trucking Alliance called on the congressional subcommittee to push for the adoption of a hair analysis requirement for USDOT pre-employment and random drug testing. Until that happens, hair analysis results won’t be included in the new USDOT Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse designed to provide trucking and motorcoach operators access to drug test results on all driver applicants.
Beginning Jan. 6, 2020, employers will be required to query the clearinghouse on all prospective applicants, so anyone seeking a new job or changing jobs will have to be registered with the clearinghouse–even if they have never tested positive for drugs or alcohol–in order for the employer’s query to be answered.
The program is designed to prevent drivers from failing a drug test during employment screening, then a day or two later going to another carrier for a job. It may also catch drivers that slip through the current system and continue to be a road hazard for years.
The clearinghouse database will maintain information on positive tests, including refusals. To regain CDL driving privileges following a positive test result, drivers will be required to complete a return-to-duty program that involves multiple follow-up tests for controlled substances.
But according to the Trucking Alliance, until hair analysis is required, “no employer will be allowed to submit hair test failures into the pending USDOT Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse. This will make it virtually impossible for another employer to know if a person applying for a truck driver job has previously failed a drug test.”