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Truck Drivers Who Fail Drug Tests: Where Are They Going?

ATRI Study Shows Many Aren't Taking Steps to Return

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration says its Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse is having the intended effect of taking large numbers of drivers caught using drugs off the highways. However, a persistent concern is that 146,000 drivers remain in prohibited driving status after failing their drug tests.

Most are not enrolling in the required return-to-duty agency process, according to FMCSA, and seem to be exiting the profession in the midst of a driver shortage.

Despite a recent illuminating research report by the American Transportation Research Institute that focused on driver marijuana test failures, FMCSA said it has no research of its own yet to explain why the large majority of drivers who test positive for at least one of the 14 substances tested appear to be moving to what they view as greener pastures — maybe even for less money.

Marijuana accounts for about 58% of all positive agency drug tests. But even nearly three years after the Clearinghouse opened, no one seems to know where all those drivers appear to be going to work, or even taking on a different career field.

The June ATRI report tried to shed light on the continuing mystery, concluding that most likely the drivers not enrolling in the return-to-work program are accepting other jobs with lower pay rather than returning to the current nationwide driver pool that already is said to be critically short.

The ATRI study concluded: “Data confirms that most [drivers] have not completed the return-to-work process and instead opted to remain outside of the interstate trucking industry.”

Marijuana is a unique problem. Truck drivers cannot use marijuana at all. Zero tolerance. Smoking a joint can cause a driver to fail his or her drug test. If that happens, a driver must successfully complete a return-to-work program, which requires evaluation by a substance abuse professional, participation in a treatment program and passing a follow-up drug test.

To be clear, the number of drivers who test positive for marijuana use is growing. As of the end of August, 127,356 drivers have tested positive for marijuana since the Clearinghouse opened in January 2020. As of August 2022, the number that had tested positive for pot was 88,648.



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