ATA again urges Congress to enhance drug, alcohol testing for drivers

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The American Trucking Associations on Wednesday, May 21, again called on Congress to support the industry’s efforts to enhance drug and alcohol testing for the nation’s 3.4 million truck drivers.

“Trucking has worked diligently to eradicate drug and alcohol abuse from its work force,” says Bill Graves, ATA president and chief executive officer. “And we’ve made great progress in recent years. But we are requesting additional help from the government since it is a federally-required program involving significant federal oversight.”

After a Nov. 1 congressional hearing on the matter, the Government Accountability Office, Congress’ investigative arm, was asked to report on ways to improve the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s drug testing program. A U.S. subcommittee’s investigation indicated truckers could easily fake federal drug test results, and described many owner-operators with their own authority as “overseeing their own substance abuse program.”

Among the factors contributing to keeping drug users off the road until they completed the return-to-duty process is that FMCSA and its state partners are able to review only 2 percent of the industry. “As a result, carriers have limited incentives to follow the regulations,” the GAO stated in its May 21 report.

“Today’s release of a Government Accountability Office report confirms the need for what ATA has been recommending for many years – a national database of drug and alcohol test results,” Graves says.

ATA is urging Congress to:

  • Take swift action to authorize and fund a national database of drug and alcohol testing results of commercial drivers;
  • Ban the manufacture, sale and distribution of products that help some drivers evade drug tests; provide for penalties for those who use them; and provide the Department of Transportation with additional authority to improve oversight of specimen collection facilities and practices; and
  • Direct the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and DOT to initiate a rulemaking that allows the testing of alternative specimens such as hair, which allows illegal drug use to be detected for a longer period of time.
  • ATA also is calling on DOT to issue a new regulation creating a tougher audit process and enhanced penalties for new carriers entering the trucking business.

    ATA says the latest percentage of drug abuse among the driver population, as reported by DOT, is under 2 percent. According to government reports, drug abuse in the trucking industry, as measured by a percentage of positive test results, is less than half of that found in the general work force, ATA says.