TRUCKING ALLIANCE SUPPORTS MORE EFFECTIVE DRUG TESTING OF US TRUCK DRIVERS
Industry Coalition Announces Opioid Drug Test Initiative at United Nations Conference on Road Safety
Washington, DC – The Alliance for Driver Safety & Security, also known as the Trucking Alliance, will promote congressional passage of a new drug testing law, to require all people who apply for a safety sensitive job in the US trucking industry to verify no opioid addiction or illegal drug use for at least 30 days prior to employment.
The Trucking Alliance announced its opioid test initiative at the United Nations, as part of an event entitled, “The Use of Technology to Promote Road Safety – The Brazilian Experience.” Brazil requires all commercial truck drivers to pass a hair test before renewing their license. More than 1 million Brazilian drivers have either failed the hair test or refused to renew their license, since the law took effect two years ago. The UN program can be found here: http://www.itts.org.br/unitednations/ingles.html#portfolio
“Current drug testing methods for truck drivers are failing,” said Lane Kidd, managing director of The Trucking Alliance. For example, Kidd told UN attendees that in 2017, J.B. Hunt Transport identified 1,213 people who tested positive on their pre-employment hair test. Yet, 90 percent of the company’s truck driver applicants passed the government mandated urinalysis. “Clearly, the US Dept. of Transportation’s pre-employment drug test protocols are missing most lifestyle drug users and opioid addicts and that’s a national problem for our industry,” said Kidd.
“We have an opioid problem in our nation and from my experience, we have one in our industry, too,” said Dean Newell, Vice President of Safety and Driver Training at Maverick USA, a major trucking company headquartered in Little Rock, Arkansas. Newell also spoke at the United Nations meeting. “We [Maverick] started hair testing for opioids in 2014 and we’ve seen a steady increase [in opioid addiction] every year.”
Opioids are undetected in a person’s system after a few hours, allowing opioid addicts to avoid drugs before submitting to a urinalysis. However, a hair exam can detect drug use for up to 90 days. Opioids subject to drug abuse in the trucking industry include codeine, morphine pain killers branded under hundreds of names, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxycodone marketed under such names as OxyContin®, Endocet®, Endodan®, Percoset®, Percodan®, Oxy-Fast®, OxyIR®, Roxicet® and Tylox, and the highly addictive opioids Methodone and Fentanyl. The US Department of Transportation recently added four of these – hydrocodone, oxycodone, hydromorphone, and oxymorphone to its pre-employment drug test protocols. But unless the applicant takes these opioids within a few hours of collection, a urinalysis drug test can miss their use.
“We hope Congress will follow Brazil’s leadership and require a drug test that proves without a doubt that a truck driver job applicant hasn’t taken illegal drugs or abused opioids for at least 30 days,” said Kidd. Kidd also predicted that Congress might consider a new drug test law for all current truck drivers, requiring a hair test before they renew their commercial driver license, as Brazil requires. “Too many loopholes allow truck drivers to skip random drug testing, even after they’re involved in a serious large truck accident.”
Newell agreed that current regulations do not capture lifestyle drug users. “We’ve had 154 drivers at Maverick who failed their hair test, after they passed a urine test. Those 154 drivers are working for another company,” explained Newell. “They’re running up and down the road with our families and that is not acceptable.”
Kidd added that since 2006, J.B. Hunt Transport has refused to employ 5,060 job applicants who failed a hair test, after passing their urinalysis. Most of those truck driver applicants found jobs at other transportation companies, because almost all US carriers utilize only the minimum federally required urinalysis. “Multiply J.B. Hunt Transport’s experience by the hundreds of thousands of truck driver applicants each year across the United States and we have a major problem,” said Kidd.
Hair testing “will save lives and hair testing is the right thing to do,” said Newell. “Maverick wants to make sure the company is the safest it can be, and that all drivers are well trained and drug free. We have a moral obligation to our employees, but we also have a moral obligation to the public.”
Newell drew on his southern roots, saying, “being a southern country boy, where I come from, we call hair testing a ‘no brainer’ and I’m happy to see Brazil taking the steps it is taking and I hope and pray we can get that done in the United States.”