You might be wondering, “How on Earth is marijuana testing related to how much it costs to move a pallet or two?” At first glance, the two issues seem completely unrelated, but anything that affects the ability of drivers to do their job affects the logistics industry as a whole. In 2022, 41,000 truck drivers tested positive for cannabis. That’s a 32% increase from 2021, and it’s a major problem.
At the moment, professional drivers can’t use marijuana, period
Anyone who drives trucks or operates heavy machinery is not legally permitted to use marijuana, even when prescribed by a doctor. It’s a hotly debated issue for a number of reasons. There’s no question that cannabis can impair your ability to drive. Unfortunately, unlike alcohol, cannabis is detectable for up to 30 days after use. This is dramatically longer than the duration of the drug’s intoxicating effects, which typically last less than 10 hours.
Driving under the influence is unacceptable, but there’s no easy way to determine whether a driver who fails a drug test ever drove while high. Because of this, there’s a blanket rule banning all marijuana use by professional truck drivers.
Marijuana use is worsening the existing truck driver shortage
In some states, including California, the laws regarding marijuana use by drivers don’t match up with changing social norms. In our state, recreational marijuana use is now legal. Most people have accepted it as relatively harmless when used occasionally, similar to how having a glass of wine or two over the weekend is no big deal. Transportation laws, however, have not kept pace with evolving attitudes.
The shift is so dramatic that many of the drivers who fail drug tests that they deem unfair and discriminatory never complete the required treatment plan and return-to-work process. Out of the 166,000 drivers who have failed a drug test, 91,000 were so put off by the experience that they moved on to other employment options. When that many drivers throw in the towel, finding replacements is a losing battle. This is especially true when new hires are likely to be young, progressive, and unwilling to give up their off-day activities because of an outdated policy.
Currently, marijuana testing is a federal requirement for truck drivers
It’s not up to trucking companies to decide whether or not to enforce marijuana testing. It’s still federal law, but it’s based on outdated technology that doesn’t match up with modern life. If nothing changes, the driver shortage will likely continue to escalate over the next decade. It goes without saying that operating any vehicle while under the influence of marijuana or other narcotics is unacceptable.
At the same time, drivers aren’t routinely tested for alcohol use or the use of any other substance. Given that fact, why is testing mandatory with a drug that’s legal in many states?
In our opinion, marijuana testing should be left up to employers
At the moment, there’s a divide between federal law and state law. It’s legal in California to use cannabis, but the federal government still mandates testing. Not even Martha Stewart could write a more perfect lawsuit recipe.
Drug testing with reasonable suspicion is logical. If a truck driver has a pristine driving record and there’s no evidence that they’ve ever shown up to work while under the influence, however, is testing necessary? Considering several recent university studies have shown that U.S. cannabis legalization actually reduced the number of heavy truck accidents in the eight states studied, perhaps a continuation of the war on drugs is off-base. It’s effectively turned into a war on the transportation industry, and on the people it serves – Which is, to say, everyone!
Ideally, better testing methods will be developed so that it’s possible to tell if drivers used cannabis while on the clock. In the meantime, penalizing them for legal activities they engage in during their off-hours seems unfair. As long as it has no impact on workplace safety and performance, there’s no reason to put thousands of drivers on pause.
Marijuana testing could lead to elevated prices. Is it worth it?
Mandated testing means fewer drivers on the road. Fewer drivers mean higher demand, and climbing prices to move goods from point A to point B. We’re all for enforcing safe driving practices, but we believe a middle ground is possible.
If trucking companies were able to determine their own policies, they could elect to test drivers only when given reasonable cause. This might include getting a traffic ticket for a moving violation or receiving an unsafe driving report. Otherwise, we will continue to lose excellent drivers just because they use marijuana responsibly on their time off. That said, this is an issue that affects us all, and safe driving is always the top priority. What do you think? Are testing laws fair, or too extreme?