According to a new study, the majority of U.S. licensed truck drivers believe that federal marijuana laws should be changed and that the existing cannabis testing procedures for drivers are discouraging people from working in the transportation industry at a time when there is a lack of drivers.
The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) conducted a review of driver marijuana testing policies that also contained enlightening poll data from drivers who believe that the status quo has to alter because to the estimated 65,000 driver shortage in the nation.
According to the research, which was released on Monday, “more than half of all positive trucking industry drug tests are for marijuana metabolite,” which can persist in a person’s system for weeks after consumption. Federal prohibition “has been emphasized as a potential deterrent for drivers to stay in the business, and it has even been argued that relaxing marijuana use restrictions would increase the industry’s appeal and broaden the potential labor pool.”
Commercial drivers are required by federal law to refrain from cannabis use and are subject to a variety of drug tests, including randomized and pre-employment tests.
According to a study included in ATRI’s report, 72.4% of licensed drivers support “loosening” cannabis rules and testing procedures. A further 66.5 percent agreed that marijuana should be made legal at the federal level.
According to a different survey, 65.4% of motor carriers think that active impairment measurement techniques should replace the current marijuana testing protocols.
ATRI stated that although “current marijuana testing is likely effective at removing drivers who may work while impaired, it also likely removes drivers who previously used the drug but would not operate a truck while impaired.” This is because cannabis metabolites can be detected through drug testing long after someone is no longer drunk.
The study found that 50.2 percent of participants agreed that “it is either very common or common to leave the industry” as a result of marijuana-related regulations, while it is unclear exactly how many potential drivers passed up work in the sector because of cannabis testing requirements.
Truck drivers were also questioned about whether they believed that the legalization of recreational marijuana had “negatively impacted” highway safety, given their significant driving expertise. 55.4 percent of respondents claimed there was no impact.
The majority of drivers (65%) also concurred that marijuana drug testing rules should be revised to place more emphasis on tests that measure actual impairment rather than urine-based screens that solely look for inactive metabolites.
A rule allowing saliva-based testing as a different alternative option was just finalized by DOT. That might stop those who use cannabis sometimes from suffering consequences if they consume it weeks before a urine test. This is because, according to the EPA, THC may typically be found in saliva one to 24 hours after consumption, depending on the frequency of usage.
The ATRI research states that there are two possible directions the federal government could go with marijuana in the near future. Both of these directions pose difficulties for the trucking business.
It might continue the federal ban. If that happens, “the trucking industry will continue to have thousands of drivers placed in prohibited status annually and will lose many others to occupations that do not test for marijuana use.”
According to the institute, one advantage of the current quo is that businesses can continue to implement zero-tolerance policies. Additionally, it might assist in settling disputes brought on by incongruent state and federal policies.
The paper states that it is feasible for federal marijuana regulations to change in favor of legalization and that marijuana may eventually be taken out of the federal Schedule I classification. The pressure on the industry’s driver shortage would probably be relieved by any move toward federal legalization.
Highway safety is the main objective of industry drug testing programs. The current strategy helps with safety initiatives but also causes inefficiencies when drivers who don’t pose a safety threat are kicked out of the business, it claims. Before any federal efforts to legalize marijuana begin, there are a number of steps that must be taken to guarantee that the trucking business stays secure and undamaged.
The report also mentioned the inconsistent current data on the effects of marijuana use while driving and highway safety, which makes it more difficult to develop regulations to address the problem. The data on cannabis’s propensity to impair driving was also deemed to be inconclusive in a 2019 report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS).
What is clear, however, is that marijuana laws have a considerable impact on the labor shortage in the transportation sector.
According to DOT data that was published earlier this year, 40,916 truckers tested positive for inactive THC metabolites in 2022 alone. Additionally, the agency stated last month that as of May 1 of this year, 12,527 drivers had tested positive for cannabis.
Last year, the DOT also put forth some recommendations, cautioning commercial drivers who take CBD products that they do so “at their own risk.” The updated manual is intended to provide guidance to medical examiners when they conduct physical examinations of commercial drivers whose professions require them to travel across state lines.
Additionally, the handbook would point examiners to a previous DOT notice stating that the department “requires testing for marijuana and not CBD” and offer additional details on cannabis-related policy and compliance regulations.
Two sections on cannabis issues were included in a newsletter from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) of the Department of Transportation (DOT) that was released last year: one that reiterated the prohibition against marijuana use and another that similarly warned that CBD products remain unregulated and may contain THC levels that can be detected in a drug test.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) stated in a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg last year that the DOT’s general cannabis testing regulations are unnecessarily costing individuals their employment and causing supply chain problems. He called for a review of the regulations and administrative reform.
Last year, a prominent Wells Fargo analyst claimed that federal marijuana prohibition and the ensuing drug testing requirements, which continue even as more states legalize marijuana, are the primary causes of growing prices and a lack of workers in the transportation industry.