A large number of truck drivers with drug and alcohol violations on their records in drug databses have failed to complete the federal return-to-duty process, according to statistics released by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
Of the 28,445 drivers with at least one violation, 26,443—or 93 percent—have been deemed ineligible to return to the road, a trend that could hinder the trucking industry even more than it already is. Drivers who are in prohibited status have yet to complete the steps required by the FMCSA that allow them to get back on the road.
From the ongoing driver shortage to a surge in shipping due to the coronavirus pandemic, the industry is already in a bind to get and keep drivers behind the wheel.
A Questionable Road Ahead
While the prohibited status slapped on these drivers has dipped slightly, coming down from 95 percent since May, the number of truck drivers not returning to work due to drug or alcohol violations is a significant concern in the industry.
According to federal regulations, if a truck driver has a violation recorded in the drug and alcohol clearinghouse, they must be removed from safety-sensitive operations, such as driving a commercial motor vehicle, until they complete the return-to-duty process. This includes evaluation, follow-up drug screening for truckers, and treatment, if necessary.
Until the FMCSA’s drug and alcohol clearinghouse began collecting this data, it had already been available to the public every month. As drug screening data for truckers continues to be compiled, it will shed light on how many drivers in the industry will lose out on work due to substance abuse problems.
Data from the clearinghouse has also revealed that roughly 13 percent of truck drivers are trying to get around the urinalysis test by cheating. This has spurred the industry’s leaders and federal regulations to impose the need for hair testing because it gives a more accurate reading than urine.
Trucking companies brought their concerns to an FMCSA-sponsored safety panel, stating that a five-year delay in rulemaking on giving them the option to replace urine testing with hair testing prevents them from hiring safe truck drivers with cleaner driving, drug, and alcohol histories.
Additionally, executives in the industry have also brought up the concern that the clearinghouse, which may start using hair test data from trucking companies, will eventually end up keeping many good drivers off the road, potentially leading to empty trucks and backed up services.
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