No-drug poli­cies left up to truck­ers

Reg­u­la­tions still on U.S. to-do list

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - BUSINESS & FARM - DAL­TON LAFERNEY

Amid a na­tional cri­sis of opi­ate drug ad­dic­tion, the truck­ing in­dus­try is still wait­ing for the U.S. Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion to strengthen its com­mer­cial drug test­ing poli­cies.

For now, it’s up to truck­ing com­pa­nies to reg­u­late opi­ate abuse among their driv­ers. But with­out a fed­eral law, pos­i­tive re­sults for cer­tain opi­ates are not shared with other com­mer­cial trans­porta­tion com­pa­nies.

The Depart­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices amended its list of banned drugs for em­ploy­ees to in­clude the four most abused opi­ates — oxy­codone, oxy­mor­phone, hy­dro­mor­phone and hy­drocodone. The trans­porta­tion depart­ment has said it will adopt the Health and Hu­man Ser­vices pol­icy.

In pro­posed bud­gets, law­mak­ers have said Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion fund­ing will in­clude ap­pro­pri­a­tions for a na­tional clear­ing­house to in­clude the re­sults of hair tests on truck driv­ers, so com­pa­nies can share the re­sults through­out the in­dus­try.

Both cham­bers of Congress must agree on a bud­get to be ap­proved by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, who has promised on the cam­paign trail more in­fra­struc­ture in­vest­ment and fewer in­dus­try reg­u­la­tions.

“We want to make sure driv­ers who are com­ing into our fleets are not us­ing these drugs,” said Abi­gail Pot­ter, man­ager of safety and oc­cu­pa­tional health for the Amer­i­can Truck­ing As­so­ci­a­tions , which sup­ports both hair test­ing and the pro­hi­bi­tion of the four ma­jor opi­ates.

Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion data show pos­i­tive drug test re­sults rose from

2015 to 2016. The re­sults do not in­clude the four most widely abused opi­ates.

For now, driv­ers will con­tinue giv­ing urine sam­ples. Com­pa­nies such as J.B. Hunt Trans­porta­tion Ser­vices and Mav­er­ick USA re­quire urine and hair tests. Wal-Mart de­clined to com­ment on its drug test­ing pol­icy for its fleet of driv­ers.

“It is im­per­a­tive to rec­og­nize hair test­ing as a vi­able op­tion in as­sess­ing com­mer­cial truck driver job ap­pli­cants,” Mav­er­ick com­pany of­fi­cials wrote in an email.

The case for hair tests is rooted in the length of time a drug re­mains in one’s hair. Hair tests can trace drug use for up to three months, while urine tests reach back about a month.

Mar­rlin Tran­sit in Van Buren has a zero-tol­er­ance pol­icy for drug use, in­clud­ing the four ma­jor opi­ates. All of its roughly 63 com­mer­cial driv­ers — in­clud­ing some in the garage who move the rigs — must pass a urine test be­fore go­ing to work. They’re also sub­ject to ran­dom tests. And any time there is a crash, they’ll have to pass an­other.

If the re­sults come back pos­i­tive, they are im­me­di­ately fired. Driv­ers on the road are told to pull over, and an­other driver is routed to pick up and haul the load to its des­ti­na­tion. CalArk In­ter­na­tional has an iden­ti­cal pol­icy.

Com­pa­nies like these have vested in­ter­ests in keep­ing drug users off the road: hav­ing driv­ers pull over costs them more lo­gis­tics dol­lars, and high­way ac­ci­dents are bad for pub­lic re­la­tions and con­sumer safety in gen­eral.

“Our com­pany is in fa­vor of hair test­ing, be­cause it’s more ac­cu­rate,” CalArk Vice Pres­i­dent of safety Den­nis Hil­ton said.

But many com­pa­nies have not yet adopted hair test­ing be­cause, while the range is wider than urine sam­ples, hair sam­ples are still im­per­fect.

Laura Cober­ley of Mar­rlin

is re­spon­si­ble for or­ga­niz­ing drug tests for driv­ers. She at­tended an in­dus­try con­fer­ence where the mer­its of hair test­ing were de­bated. It was there she learned there have been cases of one’s urine test show­ing pos­i­tive while a hair test showed neg­a­tive.

She made clear, how­ever, her com­pany is not op­posed to hair tests, and will abide by any law im­posed by the gov­ern­ment.

“We don’t even mind the ex­tra cost if it’s go­ing to keep things safer on the road,” Cober­ley said, not­ing that in her six years with the com­pany, she’s only seen one pos­i­tive test.

If a driver in Arkansas ap­plies for a job, they are sub­ject to back­ground checks, in­clud­ing any his­tory of pos­i­tive drug tests over the past three years, the thresh­old of the Arkansas Drug Test­ing Data­base. If they’ve tested pos­i­tive for any banned sub­stance in the past three years, they can­not be hired, Cober­ley said.

At Mav­er­ick, which tests for the four ma­jor opi­ates, a driver is im­me­di­ately fired for pos­i­tive re­sults of drugs. At CalArk, driv­ers who fail drug tests are re­ferred to sub­stance abuse coun­selors, cost­ing the com­pany a $150 re­fer­ral fee per case. The driver has to pay for the cost of the coun­sel­ing, which is re­quired if they are to re­turn to the road.

Cober­ley said that if ahead of a drug test an em­ployee tells her they’ll fail or are us­ing one of the banned sub­stances, the com­pany is legally re­quired to re­fer them to treat­ment cen­ters.

Though Arkansas law sup­ports med­i­cal cannabis, and other states have al­lowed recre­ational use, the Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion pro­hibits mar­i­juana use for com­mer­cial driv­ers.

“The pol­icy to the driver has not changed, so we don’t get a lot of ques­tions from them,” Hil­ton from CalArk said. “We just ba­si­cally tell them up­front, even though other states have ap­proved and im­ple­mented med­i­cal mar­i­juana, you are putting your ca­reer at risk if you do it.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.