A new clearinghouse in the trucking industry that supplies transportation companies with drug test results on drivers is resulting in potential drivers never getting the chance to make a living behind the wheel, as well as the loss of employment for current drivers. Truck industry drug testing may hurt the industry’s ability to fill a large shortage in drivers.
A headline in a recent column on the issue by Rachel Premack with Business Insider said the situation is “getting a little ridiculous.” Because no test can determine whether someone is impaired by cannabis, truck industry drug testing involves using a urine test to check for THC. But THC can stay in the body for up to a month.
“That means folks who drive trucks have to abstain from marijuana entirely — as they can expect random tests every year or so, per the new federal clearinghouse rules,” the article states.
The situation is yet another involving the use of marijuana and how that impacts a worker’s standing in the workplace.
The New Federal Drug Clearinghouse
The “clearinghouse” referred to by Business Insider is the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse set up by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The clearinghouse offers a way for transportation companies to track any past incidents of drug use involving drivers.
The intent of the clearinghouse, which went into effect in 2020, is to prevent drivers from getting fired from one job for drug use and then moving onto another company. But much like the federal Schedule I of illegal drugs, the clearinghouse groups marijuana into a category that includes cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.
New federal rules also call for routine and random truck industry drug testing of drivers. Companies also can test job applicants.
Data from FMCSA shows that a vast majority of truckers who tested positive in 2020 and 2021 were for marijuana (42,534), with cocaine (11,297) and meth (7,371) a distant second and third. But many of those positive tests could be for cannabis used as much as a month before testing.
How It’s Impacting the Trucking Industry
The trucking industry faces a large shortage in the number of drivers needed. It’s beginning to impact the economy in a variety of ways. It’s contributing to the shortage of goods in some places and one of the reasons people are experiencing higher fuel prices. In the United Kingdom, which is experiencing the same issue, it’s already referred to as a “crisis.”
A disinterest among younger generations in becoming truck drivers helps drive the shortage (the average age of truck drivers is 46). Because cannabis use is more popular among younger generations, the current rules could make it more difficult to recruit young drivers.
Jared Rosenthal, founder and CEO of drug consortium Health Street, told Commercial Carrier Journal that the solution to the issue is creation of a device that can detect whether someone is currently impaired in the way a breathalyzer detects impairment from alcohol.
“My prediction is there is one thing that will change the law for sure, and that is the invention of a so-called ‘weedalyzer,’ so a breathalyzer for marijuana,” he said. “Nobody is supporting putting truckers on the road that are high, but the problem with this issue, legal or not, is we don’t know based on a drug test if you’re high at that moment.”
He said people don’t have a problem with a trucker having a beer at night, and the same applies to an increasingly growing percentage of Americans when it comes to cannabis. “Once we have a device that tests for marijuana the same way, I think that law will change,” he said.