Majority of Truck Drivers Call for Federal Marijuana Law Changes, Citing Impact on Driver Shortage

Majority of Truck Drivers Call for Federal Marijuana Law Changes, Citing Impact on Driver Shortage

In a new report, it has been revealed that a strong majority of licensed truck drivers in the United States believe that federal marijuana laws need to be reformed. The report, conducted by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), highlights how current cannabis testing policies for drivers are deterring individuals from entering the transportation sector amid a significant driver shortage.

With an estimated deficit of 65,000 drivers in the country, ATRI analyzed driver marijuana testing policies and collected survey data from drivers who emphasized the need for change in the status quo.

According to the report, more than half of all positive drug tests within the trucking industry are for marijuana metabolites, which can remain detectable in a person’s system for weeks after consumption. The federal prohibition of cannabis has been identified as a potential disincentive for drivers to stay in the industry, with arguments suggesting that loosening restrictions on marijuana use could make the sector more appealing and expand the potential labor pool.

Current federal law mandates that commercial drivers abstain from cannabis and undergo various forms of drug screening, including pre-employment and randomized testing.

ATRI’s survey found that 72.4% of licensed drivers support the “loosening” of cannabis laws and testing policies, with 66.5% advocating for federal legalization of marijuana. Furthermore, 65.4% of motor carriers believe that current marijuana testing procedures should be replaced with methods that measure active impairment.

The report acknowledges that while current marijuana testing may effectively identify drivers who work while impaired, it may also exclude drivers who have previously used the drug but would not operate a truck while impaired.

Although the exact number of potential drivers who have avoided employment due to cannabis testing requirements remains unknown, the survey reveals that 50.2% of respondents stated it is either “very common” or “common” to leave the industry because of marijuana-related rules.

In terms of safety concerns, the majority of truck drivers (55.4%) responded that legalized recreational marijuana has had no negative impact on highway safety.

Most drivers (65%) agreed that drug testing policies for marijuana should focus on active impairment tests rather than urine-based screenings that only detect inactive metabolites. The Department of Transportation (DOT) recently finalized a rule allowing saliva-based testing as an alternative method, which could prevent individuals who have casually used cannabis from being penalized for consumption weeks prior to a urine test.

The ATRI report emphasizes that the federal government has two potential pathways to consider regarding marijuana: maintaining federal prohibition or moving towards federal legalization. The current status quo allows companies to enforce zero-tolerance policies and address conflicts arising from differing state and federal policies. However, it also results in thousands of drivers being placed in prohibited status annually and losing potential drivers who choose occupations without marijuana testing.

To ensure a safe and unimpaired trucking industry, the report suggests several actions that need to be taken before any federal efforts to legalize marijuana are pursued. It also acknowledges that the impact of cannabis use on driving and highway safety is currently a complex issue, with inconclusive research findings.

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