WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Alliance for Driver Safety & Security, also known as the Trucking Alliance, is promoting a new drug testing law that requires all applicants for safety sensitive jobs in the U.S. trucking industry to verify no opioid addiction or illegal drug use, for at least 30 days prior to obtaining employment.
The Trucking Alliance announced its drug test initiative at the United Nations as part of an event titled, “The Use of Technology to Promote Road Safety – The Brazilian Experience.” Brazil requires all commercial truck drivers to pass a hair test before renewing their licenses. More than 1 million Brazilian drivers have either failed the hair test or refused to renew their license since the law took effect two years ago. The UN program can be found at: http://www.itts.org.br/unitednations/ingles.html#portfolio
“Current federal drug test rules for truck drivers are failing,” said Lane Kidd, managing director of the Alliance.
He told UN attendees that in 2017, JB Hunt Transport identified 1,213 people who tested positive on their pre-employment hair test. Yet, 1,130 of those applicants, or 93 percent, passed the urinalysis. “Clearly, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s drug test statistics give a false picture, because we are using an inadequate test and missing lifestyle drug users and opioid addicts and that’s a national problem for our industry,” Kidd said.
“We have an opioid problem in our nation and from my experience, we have one in our industry, too,” said Dean Newell, vice president of safety and driver training at Maverick USA, headquartered in Little Rock, Arkansas. Newell also represented the Trucking Alliance as a speaker during the UN meeting. “We [Maverick] started testing for opioids in 2014 and we’ve seen a steady increase [in opioid addiction] every year.”
Opioids stay in a person’s system for a few hours, allowing opioid abusers to avoid the drug briefly before submitting to the current pre-employment drug test. However, a hair exam will detect drug use for up to 90 days, according to an Alliance news release.
“Opioids subject to drug abuse in the trucking industry include codeine, morphine pain killers under hundreds of brand names, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxycodone marketed under such names as OxyContin, Endocet, Endodan, Percoset, Percodan, Oxy-Fast, OxyIR, Roxicet and Tylox, and the highly addictive opioids Methodone and Fentanyl. The federal DOT recently added hydrocodone, oxycodone, hydromorphone, and oxymorphone to its pre-employment drug test protocols. But the current drug test method misses these and other illegal drugs, unless the applicant has taken them within hours of the collection.
“We hope that Congress will follow Brazil’s leadership and require a drug test that proves a job applicant has not taken illegal drugs or abused opioids for at least 30 days before applying for employment,” Kidd said. He also said Congress should apply the requirement to all truck drivers before they renew their license, as does Brazil.
“Too many loopholes allow truck drivers to avoid a drug test, even after drivers are involved in a serious large truck accident.”
Newell shared Maverick’s experience that current regulations are not capturing lifestyle drug users. “We’ve had 154 drivers at Maverick who failed their hair test after they passed a urine test. Those 154 drivers are working for another company,” Newell said. “They’re running up and down the road with our families and that is not acceptable.”
Kidd added that since 2006, J.B. Hunt Transport has refused to employ 5,060 job applicants who failed a hair test, even after passing their urinalysis. Most of those applicants found jobs at other trucking companies because they only utilize the federally required urinalysis. “Apply this company’s experience to the number of truck driver job applications industry-wide and across the United States, and we have a major problem,” Kidd said.
Hair testing “will save lives and hair testing is the right thing to do,” Newell said. “Maverick wants to make sure the company is the safest it can be, and that all drivers are well trained and drug free. We have a moral obligation to our employees, but we also have a moral obligation to the public.”
The Alliance supports policy reforms to improve the safety and security of commercial drivers and to reduce large truck crashes. Carriers and supporting businesses may affiliate by invitation. Member carriers, their rankings among the 250 largest U.S. trucking companies and their headquarters are: Cargo Transporters Inc. in Claremore, North Carolina; Dupré Logistics in Lafayette, Louisiana; JB Hunt Transport in Lowell, Arkansas; KLLM Transport Services in Jackson, Mississippi; Knight-Swift Transportation in Phoenix; Maverick USA in Little Rock, Arkansas; and US Xpress in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Collectively, the companies employ 80,200 professionals in 50 states, and operate 71,000 trucks and 220,000 trailers/intermodal containers to provide transportation and logistics solutions.