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June 12, 2020 4:45 PM, EDT

Marijuana Accounts for Most Failed Drug Tests, Clearinghouse Report Shows

DrugsA technician reviews data at a Quest Diagnostic lab. (Quest Diagnostics)

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More than 10,000 positive drug tests for marijuana were reported to the federal Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse through the end of May this year, distinguishing pot by far as the banned drug of choice for truck drivers failing tests, according to new numbers released in a Clearinghouse report June 11.

Of the 21,156 positive tests reported since the Clearinghouse opened Jan. 6, 10,338 were for marijuana, 3,192 for cocaine, 2,184 for methamphetamines and 1,108 for amphetamines.

Numbers for several other drugs ranging from synthetic opioids to PCP paled by comparison.

The Clearinghouse is a database containing information on commercial driver license holders’ drug and alcohol violations. Carriers, state driver licensing agencies and law enforcement officials use the Clearinghouse to check a driver’s violations.

To date, more than 889,000 drivers and 125,000 employers are registered on the database, the report said.

FMCSA Clearinghouse Report by Transport Topics on Scribd

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration spokesman Duane DeBruyne said the data “is consistent with overall expectations,” but that because it is the first summary report on the Clearinghouse, there are no earlier numbers for direct comparison.

“It is informative about drug and alcohol positives that was not previously available to the agency or the commercial driver-employed industry sectors,” DeBruyne said.

Abigail Potter, manager of safety and occupational health policy for American Trucking Associations, said the statistics show that the Clearinghouse is doing what it is intended to do: stopping commercial vehicle drivers from failing a drug test for one employer and moving on to another that may not know about the failed test.

Abigail Potter, manager of safety and occupational health policy for American Trucking Associations

Potter

“While the numbers have been high, it is a positive sign that drug testing is doing its job, and the Clearinghouse is doing its job to identify these drivers before they get behind the wheel,” Potter said. “There definitely are more positive drug test results than we expected.”

As an indicator that positive drug tests were on the rise in 2019, Potter noted that for 2020, FMCSA increased the minimum annual percentage rate for random drug testing by employers from 25% to 50% of the average number of driver positions.

Potter said that marijuana is the most easily detectable of all the urine drug tests administered to drivers, since it stays in a driver’s system for about 30 days. By comparison, cocaine and synthetic opioids typically only remain in a person’s system for a short time, unless they are tested with a hair sample. A proposal by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to allow hair testing is currently under review by the White House Office of Management and Budget.

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Sean Garney, vice president of Scopelitis Transportation Consulting, said marijuana and cocaine have been a “thorn in our side for years. They’re our challenges.”

The positive numbers actually have declined since the beginning of the COVID-19 emergency began in March, primarily due to a lull in hiring, he said.

“But all in all when you look at this, really we’re looking at less than one-half of a percent of all CDL drivers,” Garney said. “I think it’s a win. The Clearinghouse is working. The industry is safer.”

Garney noted that the numbers show that nearly 1,000 drivers with violations have rehabilitated and are back driving a truck. However, more than 15,000 drivers with violations had not yet even been reported as having started the return-to-duty process, the report said.

Garney also said that FMCSA estimates more than 550,000 motor carriers have yet to register for the Clearinghouse.

“So we’re a ways off from full compliance,” he said.

The report also said that there were more than 905,000 driver queries made by carriers. Of that total, 528,000 were for pre-employment checks, 356,000 limited queries and 21,000 other full queries.

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