By: Eric Miller, Senior Report, Transport Topics
The number of truck drivers testing positive for marijuana use increased 9.2% the first three months of 2023, and a large number of those who failed their tests are not enrolling in the return-to-work program, according to federal Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse data.
As of the end of March — the latest numbers posted in the Clearinghouse — 110,856 drivers have tested positive since the Clearinghouse opened in January of 2021. The number of drivers who tested positive for pot the first three months of this year totaled 9,344.
Through the end of March, 129,100 drivers remain in prohibited status since failing any of the 14 different types of drugs tested by the Department of Transportation. Of that total, 97,833 have not started the return-to-work program. However, a total of 19,413 are currently eligible for retesting.
Truck drivers are prohibited by federal law from using marijuana.
“This is an ongoing topic among ATA’s Controlled Substances, Driver Health & Wellness Subcommittee, and we discussed at length during our May meeting,” said Dan Horvath, vice president for safety policy with American Trucking Associations. “The group is looking at ways to address the issues, and that includes everything from correcting the misinformation related to controlled substance use, educating drivers, and getting to the root of why we are seeing controlled substance abuse in the first place.”
Marijuana use is not only a challenge for the trucking industry, but also for the overall U.S. workforce, according to a new Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index report released in May.
“In 2022, the combined U.S. workforce urine drug positivity for all drugs persisted at 4.6% — the highest level in two decades,” Quest said in a statement. “The 2021 and 2022 positivity rates were the highest since 2001, up more than 30% from an all-time low in 2010-2012.”
While marijuana was the main driver of workforce positivity increases in the general U.S. workforce, the Quest report said amphetamines positivity also contributed to the increase.
“Positivity for marijuana in the general U.S. workforce increased 10.3% (4.3% positivity in 2022 versus 3.9% positivity in 2021) and amphetamines positivity increased 15.4% (1.5% positivity in 2022 versus 1.3% positivity in 2021),” the report said. “While the company’s amphetamines data does not differentiate between prescribed medications and illicit drug use, the increase correlates with other data suggesting that the use of amphetamines, prescribed or illicit, has grown in recent years in the U.S.”
“The combined U.S. workforce includes the general U.S. workforce of mostly company-policy testing by private employers as well as the federally mandated, safety-sensitive workforce, which includes federal employees and the transportation and nuclear power industries, and can include workers such as pilots, truck drivers, train conductors and others required to drug test under federal legislation,” the Quest report said.
Positivity in Transportation and Warehousing increased 35.9% from 2018 to 2022, the report said.
“Intoxicating cannabis products, including marijuana, can have a major impact on safety at work and have been proven to slow reaction time, impact memory and impair skills essential to driving. State legalization of the drug creates new challenges for employers,” Katie Mueller, a senior program manager at the National Safety Council focusing on cannabis safety, said in a statement. “The Quest data provide compelling evidence that increased use of cannabis products by employees can contribute to greater risk for injuries in the workplace. It is imperative employers take the proper steps to create and maintain a policy that addresses cannabis use, build a safety-focused culture and educate the workforce to keep all workers safe on and off the job,” the report concluded.
Miller (May 2023). Retrieved from Transport Topics.
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