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New study alleges FMCSA underreports cocaine, opioid abuse among truckers

New study alleges FMCSA underreports cocaine, opioid abuse among truckers
In 2020, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration disqualified 54,955 commercial truck drivers for failing a urine test for illegal drug use.

CONWAY, Ark. – A University of Central Arkansas (UCA) study says that truck drivers abuse cocaine more than marijuana, contrary to reports by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).

The study compared 1,429,842 truck driver pre-employment urine drug test results reported by the federal government’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse (DAC or Clearinghouse) with 593,832 urine and hair test results submitted by carriers in the Trucking Alliance.

The DAC is administered by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), but the FMCSA only accepts urine test results.

“Our research found that DOT is seriously underreporting the actual use of harder drugs by truck drivers, such as cocaine and illegal opioids,” said Doug Voss, professor of logistics and supply chain management at UCA in Conway.

“Our analysis clearly concludes that hair testing identifies these harder drugs at higher percentages than the single urine testing method relied on by the federal government.”

In 2020, the FMCSA disqualified 54,955 commercial truck drivers for failing a urine test for illegal drug use. Marijuana was cited by FMCSA as the primary drug of choice. However, the UCA study found that FMCSA would likely have disqualified twice that many truck drivers, another 58,910, had they submitted to a hair drug test. Unlike marijuana, cocaine would have been the primary drug among this driver population.

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.

“Federal law prohibits truck drivers from using illegal drugs, yet thousands are escaping detection,” said Lane Kidd, managing director of the Trucking Alliance. “Drug-impaired truck drivers are a critical public safety issue but employing these drivers can be a considerable liability risk.”

“Until hair is recognized as a single test method, employers should consider what Trucking Alliance carriers are doing and require driver applicants to pass the required urine test and also a hair test,” Kidd added. “Driving a tractor trailer while under the influence is a lethal combination and we must keep these drivers out of trucks until they complete rehabilitation and return to duty.”

The FMCSA has not yet responded to the study’s findings.

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The Trucker News Staff

The Trucker News Staff produces engaging content for not only TheTrucker.com, but also The Trucker Newspaper, which has been serving the trucking industry for more than 30 years. With a focus on drivers, the Trucker News Staff aims to provide relevant, objective content pertaining to the trucking segment of the transportation industry. The Trucker News Staff is based in Little Rock, Arkansas.

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The Trucker News Staff produces engaging content for not only TheTrucker.com, but also The Trucker Newspaper, which has been serving the trucking industry for more than 30 years. With a focus on drivers, the Trucker News Staff aims to provide relevant, objective content pertaining to the trucking segment of the transportation industry. The Trucker News Staff is based in Little Rock, Arkansas.
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