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Truckers can Easily Cheat on Drug Tests

In all accidents involving trucks, the truck driver is required to submit to an alcohol and drug test. In my experience, truck drivers have been driving under the influence of stimulants like methamphetamine, Benzedrine, adderall, cocaine, and some are driving under the influence of alcohol.
The Federal Motor Safety Carrier Administration sometimes has random drug test. Truckers, however, can easily cheat on drug tests, according to a U.S. subcommittee investigation. The
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration data indicate that 1.3 to 2.8 percent of commercial drivers randomly tested between 1994 and 2005 tested positive for illegal drugs. However, recently Oregon roadside inspectors collected 500 urine samples from commercial drivers — mostly heavy-truck drivers – and found that approximately 9 to 10% tested positive for illegal drugs.
In February, the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit asked the Government Accountability Office, to conduct an undercover investigation. The investigators invented two trucking companies, produced bogus driver’s licenses and then posed as truckers to test 24 collection sites nationwide. The GAO also interviewed all parties involved in testing, from carrier representatives to federal officials, and analyzed regulations and data.
Investigators used bogus driver’s licenses to gain access to all 24 sites investigated, showing that a drug user could send someone else to take a drug test using fake identification. Twenty-two of the 24 selected sites did not adequately follow the remaining protocols. For example, 75 percent of sites tested didn’t restrict access to items that could be used to change the specimen, such as running water, soap or air freshener.
The GAO found a significant compliance lack among carriers, particularly small carriers and self-employed truckers. More than half of carriers with operating authority are single-truck owner-operators. While they still have to implement a drug and alcohol testing program, they usually use a third-party administrator. That administrator doesn’t have the authority to enforce regulations if drug use is indicated.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board, owner-operators “are in the precarious position of overseeing their own substance abuse program.” Drug testing protocol violations are noted in more than 40 percent of FMCSA’s safety audits conducted since 2003 of carriers that have recently started operations and more than 70 percent of the compliance reviews conducted on carriers in the industry since 2001.
FMCSA’s oversight activities are limited in quantity and scope. Safety audits targeted at new entrants began in 2003 and do not affect carriers in business before then. Such companies can be covered in compliance reviews, but these reviews occur at only about 2 percent of carriers a year, according to FMCSA. In addition, the agency’s oversight does not address compliance by service agents unless there are allegations or complaints.
Even when FMCSA is able to ensure that carriers and others are in compliance with drug testing requirements, the urine test can be subverted. Drug masking products such as adulterants work well and destroy the evidence of their presence. Investigators demonstrated that such products could easily be brought to the sites undetected.
In 2005, the GAO testified that 400 products were marketed to mislead drug tests. Furthermore, the required test covers only five drug categories and it may provide a clean result if a person has not used any of these drugs recently. The GAO will continue examining these recommendations, some of which were proposed by carriers and industry representatives.
This shows the need for the government to be more proactive in enforcing its rights to test truckers for illegal drugs before they cause a serious or fatal accident. It is not hard to design a protocol to prevent a trucker from cheating on a drug test. It just requires simple procedures that are followed with precautions designed to catch truckers intent of avoiding the test. Lax enforcement is the problem and truckers who drive under the influence who admittedly are in the vast minority of truckers must know there is a significant chance they will get caught and lose their livelihood for the regulations to the force and effect that they should.