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ATA refutes Brazilian study that claims drug, alcohol use by U.S. truckers high as 12.5%

“We know from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that in the most recent year available – 2011 – the drug use violation rate for professional truck drivers was 0.9 percent, in other words, less than 1 percent," stated ATA President and CEO Bill Graves.

The Trucker News Services

10/28/2013

ARLINGTON, Va. — American Trucking Associations leaders Monday took exception to a Brazilian study that intimated drug and alcohol use by American professional truck drivers might be as high as 12.5 percent and called on U.S. media outlets to stop “their inaccurate and sensationalized reporting on a so-called ‘study.’”

The study, which has been cited by several news outlets, was conducted by the Universidade Estadual de Londrina in Brazil.

Its findings were based on self-reporting and limited biological testing of drivers from Latin America, Australia and the United States, although the ATA questioned the source of the U.S. data.

The results stand in stark contrast to the ongoing data collected by U.S. authorities based on biological testing of professional truck drivers in the U.S.

“We know from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that in the most recent year available – 2011 – the drug use violation rate for professional truck drivers was 0.9 percent, in other words, less than 1 percent. Similarly, the alcohol violation rate for U.S. truck drivers was .19 percent (less than one-fifth of one percent) in 2008, the most recent year for which data are available,” said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves.

In fact, Graves said, in 2011 only 1 percent of drivers of large commercial trucks involved in fatal crashes had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of .08 or higher, compared with 24 percent of car drivers and 29 percent of motorcyclists.

“These numbers show the strength of our industry’s commitment to safe highways and the hard work of law enforcement to root out bad actors that comprise a very small percentage of our industry,” Graves said.

“When I recently assumed the role of chairman of American Trucking Associations, I said one of my primary aims was to increase the level of respect we have for our professional drivers,” said ATA Chairman Phil Byrd, president of Bulldog Hiway Express in Charleston, S.C.

“I can think of nothing more disrespectful than being tarred as a drug user or drunk driver based on inaccurate reporting and a specious study. The outlets that ran with this story and did not try to verify its accuracy with U.S. data, owe the millions of safe, dedicated drivers that deliver America’s most essential goods every day a sincere apology.”

 Graves said the ATA has long stood as an advocate for measures to eliminate the use of drug and alcohol use among drivers of all vehicles.

The organization was an early advocate for testing regulations and is currently calling for a nationwide clearinghouse of positive drug and alcohol test results.

In addition, ATA supports a number of other initiatives like administrative license revocation for alcohol violations, ignition interlock devices for violators and stricter open container laws to reduce the instances of impaired driving on nation’s highways.

Younger, less well-paid truckers were at higher risk for substance abuse on the job, the study said.

The new review, led by Edmarlon Girotto of the State University of Londrina in Brazil, looked at data from 36 studies conducted in a number of countries worldwide.

Most of the studies took place in large countries such as Australia, the United States and Brazil; 23 relied on surveys of drivers instead of testing their biological samples.

Girotto wrote in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine: "It has been proved that drugs and alcohol impair driving and cause a greater risk of traffic accidents.

"Gas stations, trucker stops and companies that employ these professionals must be more closely observed regarding the sale and consumption of these substances."

Together, the studies show that truckers most frequently use alcohol, amphetamines (speed), marijuana and cocaine.

The percentages were lower when studies relied on biological samples instead of questionnaires, but the researchers said the samples only revealed recent use of alcohol and illicit substances — not whether a trucker had ever used these substances while on the road, the author said.

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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