Survey: Drugged driving a major problem in trucking industry

States across the nation are adopting ever-stricter laws against drunk driving and drugged driving. It is now clearer than ever before that driving under the influence creates an unacceptable level of risk and results in preventable deaths and injuries each year.

If we expect regular drivers to be chemical-free behind the wheel, shouldn’t we expect even more of professional drivers? Unfortunately, according to recent research, a regulatory issue at the federal level could mean that there are up to 301,000 truck drivers on U.S. roads that would not be able to pass a certain kind of drug test.

An industry group known as the Trucking Alliance conducted a survey of more than 151,000 truck drivers (a statistically valid sample of the more than 3.5 million truck drivers on the road). According to the survey results, about 6 percent of truck driving job applicants failed either the urinalysis, the hair analysis, or both. The urinalysis can test for both alcohol and drug impairment, but doesn’t catch all drugs. The hair analysis is a more thorough drug test.

Drivers who fail a drug/alcohol test will soon be entered into a national database known as the USDOT Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse. This is meant to prevent drivers from failing a test for one company, then quickly applying for a different company before their test results can be shared with other potential employers. Unfortunately, the USDOT Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse is slated to only consider urinalysis results, which could miss up to 90 percent of illegal drug users, according to the Trucking Alliance.

Many companies require both a urinalysis and a hair analysis. But because hair analysis isn’t part of the new database, truck drivers who failed one company’s test could apply for a different company that doesn’t use the test. The Trucking Alliance estimates that up to 301,000 truck drivers currently driving today would either fail a hair analysis or refuse to take it (presumably because they would fail it).

Drugged driving is a major safety hazard, and it is impacting drivers who put in the most miles in the largest, heaviest vehicles. Until truck driver screening is taken more seriously, hundreds of thousands of dangerous truck drivers may be putting millions of lives at risk each day.