According to data from the federal Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse reported this week by Transport Topics, the number of truck drivers testing positive for marijuana use increased by 9.2% in the first quarter of 2023. A significant portion of those who failed their tests did not participate in the return-to-work program.
Hiring Pool Shrinks, Supply Chain Affected
As more truck drivers test positive for cannabis, fewer of them are obtaining commercial driver’s licenses. This trend is significant because the trucking industry transports nearly 75% of all goods sold in the country, including groceries. This shortage of drivers exacerbates existing supply chain issues, which have been ongoing for over a year.
As of March 31, 2023, 129,100 drivers are prohibited from driving due to failing drug tests screened by the Deptartment of Transportation. Among those drivers, 97,833 have not started the return-to-work program, and 19,413 are currently eligible for retesting.
According to Dan Horvath, VP for safety policy with the American Trucking Associations (ATA), “This is an ongoing topic among ATA’s Controlled Substances, Driver Health & Wellness Subcommittee, and we discussed at length during our May meeting. 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.”
Other Factors Affecting the Trucking Industry
The overall U.S. workforce has seen a 4.6% positivity rate for all drugs – the highest in two decades – according to a report from Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index released in May. Cannabis use and amphetamines contributed to the increase. Meanwhile, the trucking industry still faces a shortage of nearly 80,000 drivers, and this problem is expected to worsen. According to the latest ATA estimates, the truck driver shortage could reach 160,000 by 2030.