Driver issuesNewsTrucking Regulation

Truck drivers testing positive for drugs increased 8% in September

Vast majority of those prohibited from driving have not yet started return-to-duty process

Positive drug tests and drug test refusals increased 8% and 9.3%, respectively, in September, after dropping slightly in August, according to the most recent data compiled by the federal Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse.

The latest monthly data, released Tuesday by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), also revealed that the number of drivers now in “prohibited status” — meaning they have at least one drug or alcohol violation and are still in the return-to-duty process — reached 34,156 as of Oct. 1. Roughly 78% (26,590) of those drivers, however, have not yet started the RTD process.

“The month-on-month increase in the number of drug violations, including the increase in the number of positive drug tests, is pretty troubling,” David Osiecki, president and CEO of Scopelitis Consulting LLC, told FreightWaves.

“Having said that, it’s in part a function of a greater number of pre-employment drug tests administered — due to more drivers being hired — along with the likelihood of more quarterly random test selections during September” as the last month of the third quarter, he said.

Graph (right): Violations reported to the Clearinghouse by month. Source: FMCSA

Osiecki also said that the percentage of drivers with violations who have not initiated the return-to-duty steps and have not completed the RTD process remains stubbornly high. “This trend is starting to paint a picture that drivers with substance abuse problems are being snagged in the Clearinghouse net and are leaving the industry.”

The Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse requires that employers check the database at least annually, through a “limited” query, to check for potential drug- or alcohol-related violations by current employees. Employers must also conduct a pre-employment query to check for potential violations for all potential driver hires.

While pre-employment queries increased 5.6% month-on-month in September, limited queries jumped 74%, according to FMCSA.

“The month-over-month increase in pre-employment queries is a very good sign for driver hiring, and it’s a continuation of the Clearinghouse preemployment query/hiring trend we’ve seen since May,” Osiecki said. “This trend bodes well for trucking growth.”

Osiecki also pointed out that the jump in limited queries conducted by carriers on their current employees is a clear sign that employers are getting caught up in completing their required annual Clearinghouse obligations. “It’s almost certain we’ll continue to see the number of limited queries rise over the next two to three months as we approach the Clearinghouse’s one-year mark,” he said.

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  1. What you do at home is your own business..Try testing regular employees all around and politicians. Everyone uses and theres nothing wrong with it as long as they’re not high or using on duty..

  2. This is a waste of time and tax payers money. Get rid of that clearing house stupidity and do the drugscreens at scalehouses. Less personnel to pay out less wasted taxes on nothing. Do a screen when a DOT inspección is in progress

  3. The trucking industry has pushed the majority of what was left of good Truck Drivers out of the business so this IS the expected result. Ten years in the business with a SPOTLESS record including ZERO violations and I’m HAPPY to NO longer be a Truck Driver. Nuclear lawsuits and fault for every little minor mistake with ludicrous safety regulations on top of safety regulations. Our leaders are dumbfounded, but the few of us understand the complicated science behind the old saying, “You get what you pay for.”

    How’s them inward facing cameras working to make the world a safer place for everyone? Clearinghouse is just another nail in the coffin because law-abiding citizens like myself felt like it was another Big Brother move against our integrity to always DO what’s right. Rewind the clock to the introduction of CSA 2010 and its been failure in the making to make the commercial industry a safer place. You’re walking with blinders unable to see the REAL problems that are much more COMPLEX focusing only on one tiny part of the long equation beyond the cab of the truck.

    It’s real sad to think anyone would do drugs and get behind the wheel of any commercial vehicle, but like I said before and predicted long ago, this is the DIRECT result of TOO much regulation with better paying opportunities offering a ten times LESS STRESSFUL environment elsewhere. The current pandemic and rioters targeting Truckers can also be to blame adding to the ZERO protection we have out here on the roads. All them high dollar college degrees and you can’t find a way to IMPROVE the trucking industry? Change your focus and look at the big picture. Better yet, I challenge you to attain a CDL and see for yourself how the changes aren’t working in the REAL WORLD.

  4. They need to stop testing drivers for cannabis. You can smoke on your off time and still safely operate a CMV. Ive done it for years and cheat my drug tests with synthetic urine.

  5. Well the government brought a flood of people in to the so called shortage, witch is not a shortage, just short of pay, the brokers rip you off, then the service you try to get the cheapest, still RIP you off, how come they dont get looked at, hell that’s a crime, too many RIP offs

  6. I have been in business for over 34 years. I do not drive and been in management. Most people dont know its like being war or in a jail sell.These man an women are away from family in a truck most of the year with very little support. I wish i had the answer, but when alone in a truck 24 7 it takes a toll. Not making an excuse for any drug use just thinking on what we can do to help

  7. From my experience from other drivers I’ve known that using the so called CBD supplements are invoking positive results even though the supplements are supposed to be thc free. More investigation should be invoked on not only the drivers but also on the manufacturer of the product.

      1. One more reason for driverless trucks .the drug issues isn’t helping us starving underappreciated truckers and I’m new to the industry 2007 otr and know 1 or local. Side bar covid hardly said anything about body gets ppe without us drivers.

John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.