Truckers Testing Positive For Cannabis At Record Rates, 129,000 Prohibited, Exacerbating Supply Chain

The number of truck drivers testing positive for marijuana use rose by 9.2% in the first quarter of 2023, with a significant portion of those who failed their tests not participating in the return-to-work program, according to data from the federal Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse reported Transport Topics this week. 

Hiring Pool Shrinks And So Does The Supply Chain 

As more potential and current truck drivers test positive for marijuana, fewer of them are going through the process of getting their commercial driver’s licenses back.

And the supermarket shelves tell the story.

"Nearly 75% of the US economy's goods and nearly all products sold in grocery stores are transported daily by the trucking industry, which has grappled with a historic shortage of 80,000 drivers for over a year," noted Food Navigator USA.

As of the end of this March, 129,100 drivers remain prohibited from driving due to failing tests for any of the 14 different types of drugs screened by the Dept. of Transportation, Among them, 97,833 have not started the return-to-work program, while 19,413 are currently eligible for retesting.

“This is an ongoing topic among ATA’s Controlled Substances, Driver Health & Wellness Subcommittee, and we discussed at length during our May meeting,” said Dan Horvath, VP for safety policy with American Trucking Associations (ATA). “The group is looking at ways to address the issues, and that includes everything from correcting the misinformation related to controlled substance use, educating drivers, and getting to the root of why we are seeing controlled substance abuse in the first place.”

Cannabis is Not The Only Challenge

A report from Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index released in May revealed that the overall U.S. workforce has seen a 4.6% positivity rate for all drugs, the highest in two decades. Weed consumption contributed to the increase, along with amphetamines. 

Truck Driver Shortage Persists

Meanwhile, the trucking industry is estimated to have a shortage of nearly 80,000 drivers and the problem is expected to get worse before it gets better. The latest ATA estimates show the truck driver shortage could reach 160,000 by 2030.

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