Washington, DC – New research finds that truck drivers abuse cocaine more than marijuana, contrary to reports by the US Department of Transportation (DOT).
“Our research found that DOT is seriously under reporting the actual use of harder drugs by truck drivers, such as cocaine and illegal opioids,” said Doug Voss, Ph.D., Professor of Logistics and Supply Chain Management at the University of Central Arkansas (UCA). “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.”
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 agency accepts urine test results only.
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 concluded the following important findings:
• 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 explained. “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.”
In 2015, Congress directed the Secretary of Transportation to “use hair testing as an acceptable alternative to urine testing” for pre-employment and random testing of commercial truck drivers. But the federal government has yet to issue guidelines, despite the presence of recognized international lab standards for hair testing.