Two U.S.-based trucking organizations are at odds over the question of hard drug use among truck drivers.
The Trucking Alliance — a group including large fleets such as JB Hunt, Knight Transportation and U.S. Express – has published University of Central Arkansas findings that suggest the use of drugs such as cocaine and illegal opioids is under-reported because of testing methods. In contrast, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) is questioning the very methodology used in the research.
“Our research found that [the U.S. Department of Transportation] is seriously under-reporting the actual use of harder drugs by truck drivers, such as cocaine and illegal opioids,” said Doug Voss, professor of logistics and supply chain management at the University of Central Arkansas (UCA), in a Trucking Alliance press release. “Our analysis clearly concludes that hair testing identifies these harder drugs at higher percentages than the single urine testing method relied on by the federal government.”
Its findings were based on a review of pre-employment urine-based drug tests reported by the U.S. government’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse and data from the carriers who belong to the Trucking Alliance.
About 55,000 commercial truck drivers failed mandated urine tests in 2020, with marijuana cited as the most prevalent drug detected. But the university study suggested double that number would have been disqualified if truck drivers submitted hair tests – with cocaine as the primary drug in this group.
“Until hair is recognized as a single test method, employers should consider what Trucking Alliance carriers are doing and require driver applicants to pass the required urine test and also a hair test,” said Lane Kidd, managing director of The Trucking Alliance. “Driving a tractor-trailer while under the influence is a lethal combination and we must keep these drivers out of trucks until they complete rehabilitation and return to duty.”
OOIDA is refuting the claims through an analysis titled Truckers Prefer Cocaine: Study or Marketing Material.
“The UCA’s study lacks the very basics of a valid and reliable research effort. The study includes no analysis, demographic information, literature review, hypothesis or even methodology,” it said.
“Hair testing may show drug use from weeks or months previous to the test, but hair testing does not and cannot detect current use indicating that the driver is under the influence at the time of the test,” it added.