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Are Current Trucking Drug Testing Practices Missing up to 75 Percent of Drug Users?

Most Americans are aware that individuals engaged in employment in safety conscious professions are typically subject to drug testing. In the case of the drug testing regime that applies to truck drivers and other commercial motor vehicle operators, testing can occur at nearly any point in an individual’s employment. In fact, many workers remain in random testing pools even when they are temporarily on leave or subject to an extended layoff. In all, commercial truck and bus drivers are subject to drug testing before they are hired, at any time during their employment, and following a crash. Testing conducted during employment can be based on reasonable suspicion or performed randomly.  Our truck crash lawyers explain below.

Problems with the Trucking Drug Testing Regime

While the federal drug testing regime is reasonably effective at identifying recent drug users and drivers who are likely to drive while under the influence of controlled substances or alcohol, there are certain gaps in the testing regime that can result in missing drivers that should be disqualified from operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV). While there are numerous problems with the drug testing regime, there are two readily identified issues that must be addressed.

The first issue that must be addressed is certain at-risk truck drivers’ propensity to partake in drugs and substances that are not currently included in the federal drug testing regime. That is, current DOT drug tests conducted under 49 CFR Part 40 Subpart F will test for the following five classes of drugs:

  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Opiates – opium and codeine derivatives
  • Amphetamines and methamphetamines
  • Phencyclidine – PCP

In addition, DOT testing procedures include alcohol. Thus, at least some truck drivers who understand the testing system will use drugs that are not included as part of the DOT’s tests.  In a world where domestic and foreign laboratories can produce a seemingly infinity array of “research chemicals” and designer drugs, this is a particularly troubling fact.

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The second problem with the drug testing regime is that it is currently entirely dependent upon urinalysis. While urinalysis is a reliable method of testing, it can typically only detect drug use within the past several days. Thus, a person who routinely uses cocaine or amphetamines can theoretically pass a test after only a few days of abstinence. Then, after the test, they may resume their drug use.

Motor Carriers Petition FMCSA to Utilize Hair Drug Testing

Many trucking companies realize that impaired drivers are more prone to accidents and therefore take measures to prevent drugged or drunk driving by CMVs. Six large trucking companies recently petitioned the FMCSA to obtain approval for implementing hair-based testing for CMVs. The parties that petitioned the FMCSA for this change are:

  • J.B. Hunt Transport Inc.
  • Schneider National Carriers Inc.
  • Werner Enterprises Inc.
  • Knight Transportation Inc.
  • Dupre Logistics Inc.
  • Maverick Transportation

These companies believe that testing a potential employee’s or an employee’s hair for drugs will result in a more reliable and comprehensive drug testing regime. These companies believe that hair testing will reveal additional habitual users of controlled substances because of the longer detection times. A hair test for drugs can detect controlled substances for many months after exposure. In fact, one trucking company noted that following hair testing procedures for pre-employment purposes produced four times as many positive results as urinalysis.

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However, hair testing has its critics. Some researchers state that hair testing is actually the least reliable form of testing because hair tests cannot detect whether the controlled substance was metabolized in the body or was merely present in the environment. Furthermore, researchers also state that it can be difficult to ensure that the hair has been sufficiently cleaned. This can lead to false positives.  However, despite the risks of false positives, at least trucking companies seem to recognize that preventable highway crashes are not in anybody’s best interests.

Injured by a Drunk or Drugged Truck Driver and in Need of a Truck Accident Lawyer?

If you or a loved one have suffered a serious injury due to a drunk or drugged truck driver, the lawyers of Reiff Law Firm’s The Truck Accident Team may be able to help. To discuss your accident, your injuries, and potential paths towards a legal recovery please call our law offices to schedule a free and confidential consultation. To speak with a lawyer, call (215) 246-9000 today.

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