ATRI Drug Testing Policies: Marijuana Legalization and the Trucking Industry
The Growing Legalization of Marijuana and its Effects
The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) is calling for carriers to provide their insights on whether federal drug testing policies for commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders should be modified in response to the increasing number of states legalizing marijuana. With more than 20 states, including Maryland and Missouri, now allowing recreational marijuana use, ATRI launched a new survey titled “Impacts of Marijuana Legalization on the Trucking Industry.” The survey was open for submissions until March 17.
ATRI’s Research Aims to Quantify the Impacts
Fred Fakkema, vice president of safety and compliance at Zonar Systems and chairman of the American Trucking Associations’ Law Enforcement Advisory Board, explained that states’ rapid legalization of recreational marijuana use directly affects fleets and their workforce. ATRI’s research intends to help quantify those impacts, ensuring that carriers and regulators have a comprehensive understanding of the situation.
Survey Questions Address Key Issues
The survey contained two dozen questions that touch on topics such as carriers’ hiring practices, their treatment of various types of drug violations, and whether they have observed an increase in positive drug tests or candidates leaving upon learning a drug test is required.
Carriers Offer Opinions on Specific Topics
Among the specific topics covered in the survey are carriers’ concerns about the impact of marijuana legalization on drivers and insurance rates, their preference for a test that measures current marijuana impairment or use within the past day rather than the existing test that can detect use weeks prior, and the number of drivers reported to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse each year from 2019 to 2022 due to a positive marijuana test.
The Return-to-Duty Process and its Results
The survey also explores the number of drivers who have completed the required return-to-duty process and returned to a company, highlighting the effectiveness of current policies and procedures.
Marijuana Violations Impacting the Trucking Industry
As the trucking industry faces near-record demand for labor, drug violations, specifically those related to marijuana, are sidelining drivers. FMCSA driver data from January 2020 to April 2022 revealed that 98 percent of testing results involved drugs, as opposed to alcohol. During that time, marijuana dominated positive results more than all other drugs combined.
Addressing the “Channel Conflict”
ATA president and chief executive Chris Spear testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee last month about the “channel conflict” created by federal rules prohibiting any marijuana use by CDL holders and the increasing state-level legalization. He emphasized that the ambiguity is generating a litigious environment, with the trucking industry caught in the middle.
Potential Changes in Drug Testing Policies
As ATRI gathers input from carriers, the information could potentially lead to changes in drug testing policies for CDL holders. Carriers’ concerns about marijuana legalization’s impact on drivers and insurance rates, as well as their preferences for more accurate testing methods, may influence future decisions regarding these policies.
Possible Consequences of Changing Drug Testing Policies
If drug testing policies for CDL holders are altered in response to the growing legalization of marijuana, the trucking industry may face several consequences, both positive and negative.
Positive Outcomes of Updated Policies
- Improved hiring process: More accurate testing methods could help carriers better identify drivers who are currently impaired, rather than sidelining those who used marijuana weeks prior. This may lead to a more efficient hiring process and a larger pool of qualified candidates.
- Reduced legal issues: Addressing the “channel conflict” between federal and state laws may help reduce legal complications for the trucking industry, potentially minimizing costly litigation.
- Enhanced safety: By focusing on detecting current marijuana impairment, carriers can prioritize safety and ensure that their drivers are fit for duty.
Potential Negative Consequences of Policy Changes
- Increased insurance rates: If marijuana use becomes more prevalent among drivers due to changes in drug testing policies, insurance companies may respond by raising premiums for carriers.
- Possible decrease in safety: If drug testing policies are not properly adjusted to ensure that drivers are not impaired, there could be an increased risk of accidents and other safety concerns on the road.
- Public perception: Some individuals may view the relaxation of drug testing policies as a sign that the trucking industry is not taking the issue of impaired driving seriously, which could negatively impact public perception.
The Importance of Industry Input and Collaboration
As ATRI continues to gather input from carriers, it is crucial for the trucking industry to collaborate and provide valuable insights into the potential impacts of changing drug testing policies. By working together, carriers, regulators, and industry stakeholders can develop a more comprehensive understanding of the issue and make well-informed decisions that prioritize safety, efficiency, and the needs of the industry as a whole.
The American Transportation Research Institute’s survey on drug testing policies in the context of marijuana legalization represents an essential step toward understanding the potential consequences of policy changes for the trucking industry. With carriers’ input and industry-wide collaboration, it is possible to find a balanced solution that addresses the concerns of all stakeholders while ensuring that safety remains the top priority.
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For more information about ATRI’s survey, visit ATRI’s website.