Trucking Industry Faces Driver Shortage as More Drivers Reject Drug Testing

Trucking Industry Faces Driver Shortage as More Drivers Reject Drug Testing

A recent federal report indicates that the number of positive drug tests among commercial truck drivers declined by more than 10% in 2023 compared with 2022 according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse. The overall decline in drug violations in 2023 is attributed to nearly a 40% increase in drivers’ refusals to take drug tests, the FMCSA said in a statement to Transport Topics. “We’ve observed that even though the number of positive drug tests dropped for the first time in relation to the previous calendar year, the number of overall drug violations reported to the Clearinghouse continued to increase [68,229 drug violations in 2023 compared with 67,775 in 2022].”

A June 2023 report done by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) noted that federal prohibition of cannabis “has been highlighted as a potential disincentive for drivers to stay in the industry, and it has even been argued that loosening the restrictions on marijuana use would make the industry more attractive and widen the potential labor pool.” The ATRI report also noted a fear of positive testing over cannabis metabolites, which can remain in a person’s blood long after consumption, could be discouraging would-be truck drivers.

The surge in drug testing refusals comes at a critical time for the transportation industry, which is grappling with a nationwide shortage of drivers. This shortage, 60,000 as estimated by the American Trucking Associations (ATA), has profound implications on the supply chain, affecting everything from the availability of everyday consumer goods to the stability of national economic growth. Industry experts argue that stringent drug testing policies, which may inaccurately flag drivers as impaired, are exacerbating the shortages. Also, a large number of drivers who tested positive in past years are not registering to return to work. Dan Murray, senior VP of ATRI, who called 2023 a “really bad year for the trucking industry,” also acknowledged that a significant percentage of truck drivers are leaving the industry due to drug testing. “So, I think some people are proactively thinking ‘Well, before I get caught, I’m outta here,'” Murray said.

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