LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) is refuting a recent report by the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) concerning drug testing methods in the trucking industry.
UCA, located in Conway, Arkansas, conducted the study for the Alliance for Driver Safety and Security, also known as the Trucking Alliance (TA).
The study claims that the U.S. Department of Transportation is under reporting the actual use of hard drugs by professional truck drivers.
OOIDA, through its research and education arm, the Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association Foundation (OOFI), says that “the reliability, validity and ultimately the conclusions that TA’s non-peer reviewed report are highly questionable. In fact, the research only proves to show that TA member drivers have historically used cocaine more than marijuana.”
Doug Voss, professor of logistics and supply chain management at UCA in Conway, co-authored the study and rebutted the OOFI criticism.
“We appreciate OOIDA/OOFI’s critique of our report,” Voss wrote in an e-mail to The Trucker. “Unfortunately, OOFI did not carefully examine our past work or the current report and, ultimately, created a nameless, faceless document that argues semantics and ignores accepted research norms.”
The study sought to compare pre-employment urine and hair drug testing results gathered from the TA with urine drug testing results from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse (DAC), which began operation in September 2020.
The study compared 1,429,842 truck driver pre-employment urine drug test results reported by DAC with 593,832 urine and hair test results submitted by carriers in the TA.
UCA researchers found that:
- Trucking Alliance drivers are less likely to use illegal drugs than the national truck driver population. They passed their urine drug tests 269% more frequently than drivers in the clearinghouse.
- However, among Trucking Alliance drivers who were disqualified for failing their hair test, cocaine was identified 16.20% more frequently and opioids were identified 14.34% more frequently than the DAC urine test results.
- Researchers found statistical evidence that urine testing is effective at detecting marijuana, while hair testing detects marijuana, but also a higher percentage of harder drugs, like cocaine, heroin and opioids.
- The severity of this issue is compounded by the finding that an additional 58,910 DAC drivers would likely have been disqualified in 2020, if the drivers had submitted to hair testing.
In its rebuttal, OOFI stated that “UCA’s study lacks the very basics of a valid and reliable research effort. The study includes no analysis, demographic information, literature review, hypothesis or even methodology. Peer review is a key component of any good research project in order to properly evaluate and verify the findings. UCA provides limited information and yet expects the reader to accept their conclusions on blind faith.”
Voss fired back, writing: “First, they claim our sample is not generalizable to the broader driver population because the TA sample ‘includes only a small subset of carriers who are located in distinct regions of the United States.’
“Our peer-reviewed research (Voss and Cangelosi, 2020) established that TA drivers are hired from a nationwide pool with a statistically significant geographic correlation to the U.S. truck driver population as provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.”
Voss continued, writing: “OOFI further claims that our sample is not generalizable because we do not control for demographics. Our peer-reviewed research (Voss and Cangelosi, 2020) establishes that a sample size of 16,641 is required to make inferences to the U.S. truck driver population given a 1% margin of error and 99% confidence interval.”
Voss further stated that “our current analysis utilizes hair tests from 288,495 drivers and urine tests from 305,337 drivers, which is over 17 times the required sample size.”
“We also provide statistical evidence that positive urine tests reported to the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse (DAC) and those reported by the TA are significantly correlated, which provides evidence that the TA sample is generalizable to the DAC sample. OOFI’s criticism is invalid,” Voss stated.
OOFI contended that the UCA report is invalid because hair and urine tests are incomparable due to detection window differences.
To that, Voss stated: “OOFI seems to believe that urine is superior because it can be used to detect current drug use. We agree that urine is better suited for post-accident drug screens. However, our report examines pre-employment drug screens, the purpose of which is to determine whether a driver has used drugs. Once again, OOFI’s criticism is invalid.”
Voss continued: “Other aspects of the OOFI paper indicate they did not carefully consider our work. OOFI claims we attempted to mislead readers by failing to indicate our drug use percentages were based on positive drug tests and not the total number of tests.”
Voss said that the study examines the frequency with which regulated drugs were detected among TA and DAC drivers with positive urine tests, and looks at the frequency with which regulated drugs were detected among DAC drivers with positive urine tests, along with TA drivers with positive hair tests.
“Additionally, OOFI critiques our report by claiming we do not compare safety outcomes between firms who only employ urine testing and those who also employ hair testing,” Voss stated.
“This was never the purpose of our work, which is clearly defined in its very first sentence. We do believe examining hair testing’s safety outcomes would be interesting, however, the safety benefits of removing drug users from the road appear obvious.”
The FMCSA has not responded to the study’s findings.
Born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and raised in East Texas, John Worthen returned to his home state to attend college in 1998 and decided to make his life in The Natural State. Worthen is a 20-year veteran of the journalism industry and has covered just about every topic there is. He has a passion for writing and telling stories. He has worked as a beat reporter and bureau chief for a statewide newspaper and as managing editor of a regional newspaper in Arkansas. Additionally, Worthen has been a prolific freelance journalist for two decades, and has been published in several travel magazines and on travel websites.