The opioid epidemic is just as big of a worry in the trucking industry as it is in the rest of the economy.
The crisis has been on the radar of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration since May of last year. At that time, the agency expressed concern about fleets failing to drug test driver applicants.
DOT Takes Action
On January 1, 2018, a new Department of Transportation rule on drug testing will go into effect.
The rule adds four opioids to the DOT drug testing panel. They are: hydrocodone, oxycodone, hydromorphone, and oxymorphone. Previous tests screened for cocaine and marijuana.
The rule applies to “safety-sensitive transportation workers.” This includes not only truck drivers, but also flight crews, air traffic controllers, and train engineers.
“The opioid crisis is a threat to public safety when it involves safety-sensitive employees involved in the operation of any kind of vehicle or transport,” said DOT Secretary Elaine L. Chao. “The ability to test for a broader range of opioids will advance transportation safety significantly and provide another deterrence to opioid abuse, which will better protect the public and ultimately save lives.”
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Substance Abuse In Trucking
Truck drivers have a challenging and dangerous job. The FMCSA found in a 2014 study that truck drivers have a fatal work injury rate of 22.1 per 100,000 workers. This is the eighth highest in the country.
With so much at stake, it’s no surprise that opioid abuse – and substance abuse in general – is of such concern in the transportation industry.
But when researchers have looked into the scope of substance abuse in the trucking industry, their findings have varied. Estimates differ both based on drivers’ own reports, and on the results of drug testing.
In 2013, a report found that 12.5% of truck drivers worldwide had positive alcohol tests. In addition, 20% of drivers admitted to marijuana use, and 3% admitted to cocaine use. The researchers did see a strong correlation between the drivers who reported substance use and poor working conditions.
In 2002, an initiative called “Operation Trucker Check” tested a total of 822 urine specimens from truck drivers in the United States. 21% of the specimens tested positive for either illicit, prescription, and/or over-the-counter drugs. 7% tested positive for more than one drug. 9.5% were for stimulants such as methamphetamine, amphetamine, phentermine, ephedrine/pseudoephedrine, and cocaine.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has a page to answer drivers’ questions about DOT drug rules and testing here.
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