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Truckers’ positive drug tests up 18% in 2022

Rate of increase doubled over previous year; marijuana violations up 31%

Latest data suggests trucker drug use is on the rise. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

The latest data from the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse reveals that drug use among commercial drivers may be at its highest level since the federal repository was set up in 2019 — but more are being cleared to drive again as well.

Total drug violations reported into the clearinghouse in 2022, including positive tests and refusals to take a drug test, increased 18% to 69,668 compared with last year’s 59,011, according to the most recent statistics released this week by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. That rate almost doubled the 9.2% annual increase in drug violations reported in 2021.

Much of the increase can be attributed to violations related to marijuana, the substance identified most in positive tests. Marijuana violations increased 31.6% in 2022 compared with 2021, to 40,916. That compares to a 5.3% increase between 2020 and 2021.

In fact, positive drug tests reported into the clearinghouse in 2022 increased in 12 of 14 substances tracked by the database, with only hydrocodone and heroin showing decreases.

Some of the increase in total violations can be attributed to the fact that completed registrations from drivers, employers and third-party organizations have been added each year since the clearinghouse began accepting registrations in September 2019. However, the number of registrations added annually has steadily declined since 2020 as the database gradually fills with all FMCSA-regulated registrants.

Regarding marijuana specifically, there has been speculation that increasingly liberal state marijuana laws could also be a factor — even though federal law preempts state law regarding the use of both medicinal and recreational marijuana by commercial drivers.

“While the numbers are a little jarring, it is clear the clearinghouse is working as intended,” P. Sean Garney, co-director of Scopelitis Transportation Consulting, which specializes in truck safety, regulations and compliance, told FreightWaves.

Garney pointed to data in the report showing that there were double the number of positive tests for preemployment screening versus positive tests taken randomly from drivers last year.

Substances identified in positive drug tests reported as of Jan. 4, 2023.
*Total since Jan. 6, 2020. Source: FMCSA

“It’s far more common for a driver to test positive in a preemployment environment, and before the clearinghouse, carriers had no way to know if a driver they were considering was prohibited from operating a [commercial motor vehicle] based on that test,” Garney said. “[This data] shows me the system works.”

In addition, the data shows that more drivers are getting rehabilitated and reentering the trucking workforce, he said. At the end of 2020, only 12.5% of drivers who had tested positive had been cleared to drive again. In 2021 that number increased to 22.7%, and it increased again in 2022 to 27.6%.

Garney also noted that starting on Jan. 6 — after three full years of clearinghouse operation — motor carriers were no longer required to query a driver’s previous employer to request drug and alcohol testing histories, because they are now able to go back three years within the clearinghouse.

“Some carriers have been nervous that eliminating the previous employer inquiry might cause them to miss important information about a driver’s drug testing history,” he said.

However, with more than 3 million drivers and over 443,000 employers registered, “the clearinghouse is operating at full tilt and as intended, making it a great source of truth for this information. This should make wary carriers feel better about streamlining their procedures by using the clearinghouse.”

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.


  1. Rubber Duck

    These numbers mean absolutley nothing!! What people want to know is the number of drivers who were actually under the influence of these drugs while driving. What is the percentage of accidents where the driver was under the influence? They won’t tell you that will they? Because it is less than 1%! The whole purpose of this is to get cheap labor for these mega carriers who have their own lobbyists in Washington. They are giving illegals CDL’s , this is why they are allowing our borders to be wide open, cheap labor!! Make no mistake the feds,megas, and others who say this is about safety is hogwash!! It’s about lining there pockets just like the Joe Biden crime family where Crack smoking Hunter Biden gets million dollar pay days! They sure will need self driving semis because nobody is going to want to do it. Completley Over regulated!

  2. Walter Settler jr

    It’s mostly targeting certain people if we lose a few of other people in the process, but we take out the most of these type of people in the process. The other people are only collateral damage. Uumm of I could deal with that. Says the government. And money!

  3. Walter Settler jr

    I think the The government need to relax on the marijuana. We know what nationality of people mostly use marijuana we know what nationality of people mostly use cocaine and meth. In the government knows also, I don’t want to step on too many people toes but when we read this article ourself we know. It’s just certain classes of race and people the government do not want to see make a six-figure salary a year. So they put other rules in action in order to still be able to hold this down and put their foot around our neck. And that’s all I’m going to say. Believe me we know who we are

  4. John Carroll

    Drivers are not driving high.. CBD will show thc in the urine… been on the road 30 years and have been the governments slave for that long … you can’t enjoy your time off cause the only thing that’s legal is alcohol when your home and i hat that stuff .. just gives me a headache… weed would be nice to have when your home but it stays in your urine for 30 days or more .. … so i do as my master uncle sam ask .. i don’t smoke . Hope to retire some day … maybe then i get my freedom..

  5. Troy Thomas

    The Federal government needs to remove marijuana from the “drug” list. It needs to be treated just as alcohol. And no, it doesn’t just let loose all of a sudden days later as Bill O’Reilly was spewing on Fox before he got fired.

  6. Bubba

    The trucking industry is done for once the boomers and the subsequent generations retire. Why in the world would anyone want to spend weeks living in a truck, driving hundreds of miles a day and pretty much sacrificing themselves and any hope of a family life just to be told what we can and can’t do off duty. If I want to smoke some weed during my FOUR days home a month that is MY BUSINESS, not my employers and not my governments.
    The best part is that you can legally get black out drunk while out on the road, just as long as you stop drinking 10 hours before driving, as if that’s nearly enough time to recover and be fully functional.
    It’s a joke.
    I personally drive commercially, but I am working my way out of the industry. It’s not worth it. Fellow millennials, if anyone tries to talk you into being a trucker do yourself a favor and just don’t. If you are a current driver and a new employer demands a hair test, turn the job down. Employers are not god, they do not own you and they have absolutely no right to invade upon your personal time.
    It’s going to be an amusing next ten years or so, when driver numbers begin to plummet and there nobody around dumb enough to fill the gaps. On the flip side, if it were legal to smoke a joint after your 14 hour day, you might catch the interest of the smarter generations.

  7. Indiana jones

    I’m a old school trucker been out there 32 plus years there was no room to drive impaired for any reason you’re out there on the road around other people’s families I owned several trucks and when something broke I fixed it safety is number 1 in my book however when elds came about I retired the rules implemented are uncalled for I had enough sense when I was tired I parked and slept don’t need to be told too now truck stops are taking advantage of this rule and charge to park rest area’s are closing across the country state officials are doing nothing to see are fellas have safe places to park now there writing tickets for on ramps off ramps my brother truckers needs someone step up and do something about this situations all the truck stops have removed dining where you can park your feet underneath the table for a decent meal fuel prices are ridiculous repairs and road service sucks this industry is in dire need of restoration rules keep changing and getting to where it’s not fun to be out there anymore

  8. Nigel Barrage

    Weed will eventually be legalized at the federal level. Weed has never been the primary cause of a fatal accident. Anyone who would suggest otherwise has zero knowledge of the effects of weed.
    Employers: Most of your drivers are alcoholics. Let them smoke instead.

Comments are closed.

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.