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Drug Testing and the Driver Scarcity

Constructive drug exams for marijuana outpace all different medicine within the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse — 53%.

Picture:Gettyimages/Елена Рубан 

If you change too many variables in an experiment, you’ll be able to’t inform which one was chargeable for the outcomes. And with the present truck driver scarcity, too many variables have modified in a short while to reliably single out a trigger.

Many blame larger unemployment and stimulus advantages from the federal authorities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Whereas which may be a part of the issue, it’s not that easy.

What are a few of the different variables at play?

  • Some drivers determined to retire or change jobs as a result of they feared catching COVID-19.
  • The pandemic affected the pipeline of latest drivers coming into the trade, as truck-driver coaching colleges and state licensing places of work shut down or restricted capability.
  • Like many restaurant staff, some drivers might have been prompted by the pandemic to search for different alternatives with higher working situations.

However let’s take a look at one more variable: the federal Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse, which went into impact shortly earlier than the pandemic hit.

As of Might 1, practically 70,000 drivers had been reported to the clearinghouse with not less than one violation. About 12,000 of these (17%) had accomplished the steps wanted to not be in prohibited standing. However 63% had not even began the return-to-duty course of. 

Constructive drug exams for marijuana outpace all different medicine within the clearinghouse — 53%. It’s practically 4 occasions as many because the next-highest drug, cocaine. 

Deborah Lockridge

Nobody desires an impaired driver behind the wheel of an 80,000-pound truck. However say you’re an in any other case safety-conscious driver residing in a state the place marijuana is authorized. As a substitute of some beers on a Friday evening at dwelling, you might have a number of tokes. Per week later, you fail a drug check. Moderately than undergo the prolonged return-to-duty course of, you may search for a job the place you wouldn’t be penalized. 

Though marijuana is authorized to some extent within the majority of states, on the federal stage, it’s a Schedule I drug underneath the Managed Substances Act. Legalized-marijuana proponents say hashish doesn’t belong in the identical class as heroin and LSD. As a substitute, they argue, it must be handled extra like alcohol – authorized to devour, with restrictions reminiscent of minimal age, and unlawful to drive whereas impaired. 

Not like drunk driving, nevertheless, to this point there’s no straightforward and dependable check to find out hashish impairment. And there’s no consensus on how lengthy impairment lasts.

The Nationwide Institute on Drug Abuse notes, “Marijuana considerably impairs judgment, motor coordination, and response time, and research have discovered a direct relationship between blood THC focus and impaired driving skill.” (THC is tetrahydrocannabinol, the intoxicating part of hashish.)

But the identical report advises that “the function performed by marijuana in crashes is commonly unclear as a result of it may be detected in physique fluids for days and even weeks after intoxication and since individuals incessantly mix it with alcohol.”

Final yr, an evaluation of 80 scientific research by the College of Sydney in Australia recognized a “window of impairment” of three to 10 hours brought on by average to excessive doses of THC. However the period of impairment is dependent upon the dose, whether or not it’s inhaled or taken orally, whether or not the hashish consumer is common or occasional, and the calls for of the duty being undertaken.

In our present litigious atmosphere, it might be troublesome to argue {that a} fleet ought to step again from drug-testing insurance policies stricter than federal necessities, such because the hair testing utilized by quite a few massive carriers. 

However not solely are the variety of states legalizing marijuana growing – with the Democratic occasion in energy in Washington, there are also efforts on the federal stage to legalize or decriminalize the drug.

Constructive drug exams for marijuana outpace all different medicine within the clearinghouse — 53%. It’s practically 4 occasions as many because the next-highest drug, cocaine.

It’s no surprise the American Transportation Analysis Institute (the analysis arm of the American Trucking Associations) has made it a high analysis precedence for 2021 to take a look at the impression of decriminalization of marijuana and different medicine on the trucking trade. 

Sooner or later, will we resolve that somebody can use hashish and nonetheless be a secure, fascinating driver for the trucking trade? The reply, I’m afraid, is, “It’s difficult.”  

This editorial commentary was initially revealed within the July 2021 subject of Heavy Responsibility Trucking.

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