Federal drug-test restrictions that went into effect last year have contributed to a truck drivers shortage, industry officials reveal.
Federal government data shows that since January 2020, more than 72,000 truck drivers are removed from US highways because they are failing in drug tests mandated by Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse, which was established to improve highway safety.
According to the American Trucking Association, the overall shortage of drivers in the industry has increased to 80000, from 60800 in 2018 and 50700 in 2017. It has also been attributed in part to a pandemic of impaired drivers, as well as the scarcity of younger drivers.
Driver Reach CEO Jeremy Reymer told The Post that the new drug-testing rules have resulted in the loss of “a staggering number of drivers.”
Although the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) enforces the clearinghouse, employers see it as both positive and necessary. In addition, when their employees fail a random drug test, they are also required to contribute data to the list.
Previously, “There were situations where drivers were testing positive and were job-hopping,” said Steve Keppler, co-director of Scopelitis Transportation Consulting. As a result, a carrier would have missed the positive test because they refused to disclose their previous employer. That is no longer possible thanks to the clearinghouse.”
Shortage of drivers has further hampered the supply chains of a country as a result. Just three months before COVID-19 began to wreak havoc on logistics companies across the United States, the registry’s strict rules went into effect, resulting in higher prices for everything from toys to lumber to groceries.
Chef’s Warehouse CEO Chris Pappas tells the New York Post that several potential hires can’t pass their drug tests. According to the CEO, almost 1,000 drivers are still needed for his Bronx-based company, which supplies food to high-end restaurants across the country.
He said it hurts Pappas to turn away so many job applicants because of a drug violation, though he refused to be more specific.
The number of drivers who don’t try to repair their records is also a concern. There is a “return to duty” program for drivers who have been placed on the registry, but so far, 54,495 offenders have not begun the program and are unlikely to do so in the future, experts say.
Marijuana use is legal in 18 states for recreational purposes, but the federal government considers it an illegal substance.
In an email, Scott Duvall, director of safety and compliance for TransForce Group, which runs truck driving schools and provides drivers, said: “There needs to be the ability to test for real-time impairment and not just recent or long-term past use of marijuana.”
An anonymous employer estimates that he rejects up to 15% of the truck drivers he hires due to drug-related issues. According to an analysis of government data by Transport Topics, positive drug tests rose by 13 percent in August compared to the same month last year.
According to this source, a “large percentage of the workforce” is now ineligible to operate a motor vehicle.
An increasing number of officials have expressed concern about the situation. According to the ATA, nearly 1 million new drivers will be needed over the next ten years—or 110,000 per year—to overcome turnover rates and meet freight demand.
As a cautionary tale, Costello warned the entire supply chain that if nothing changes, one day, consumers could walk into a grocery store and only see three varieties of apples on the shelves because a shipment didn’t make it.
Rose drives across his home state for the state Chamber of Commerce, delivering simulators to high schools where he uses video game technology to promote truck driving as a career choice. In addition, he is tasked with promoting the lucrative nature of long-haul trucking and encouraging young people to follow in his footsteps.
It’s essential for young people, Rose said, to establish themselves and build a nest egg while they’re still young.