Big rigs and commercial trucks are about as American as apple pie. Remember frantically pumping your fist as a child (or maybe you still do it as an adult—no judgment) at tractor-trailers hoping for a blast of that ungodly loud horn? They’re a staple of road culture, and many industries need them to keep goods moving across the country. But, with a record deficit of truck drivers, supply chain issues are getting worse. And marijuana violations by truck drivers are playing a surprising part in all of it.
Over 10,000 truck drivers have been taken off the road because of marijuana violations
Stacker reports that “as of April 1, 2022, 10,276 commercial vehicle drivers have tested positive for marijuana use. By the same time in 2021, there had been 7,750 violations. That’s a 32.6% increase year over year.”
Does this mean that a massive number of commercial-vehicle drivers are smoking and driving? More than likely, the answer is no.
Employers can test truck drivers randomly during their employment and test them after any accidents—whether the truck driver was at fault or not. And while this may sound like a good way to cut down on driving under the influence, it gets complicated when testing for marijuana products.
Unlike alcohol, which leaves the body relatively quickly, drivers can test positive for marijuana use up to a month after using it. Someone who uses THC two or fewer times per week can test positive for up to three days. According to Stacker via The American Addiction Centers, “someone who uses marijuana several times a week can test positive for up to three weeks, and those who use marijuana even more frequently can test positive for a month or longer.”
The Department of Transportation’s blanket policies on marijuana are causing problems
One of the problems with marijuana use in truck drivers is that they spend their days traveling across the country—and can be subject to different states’ and overarching federal laws while they do.
Truck drivers who travel cross-country face inconsistent state regulations as 19 states have legalized recreational marijuana and 37 states permit it for medicinal purposes. But even if a driver used marijuana or hemp-based products like CBD while off duty in a state where those substances are legal, they could still be faced with a violation due to the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) zero-tolerance policy at the federal level.Stacker
Yes, even CBD could get you kicked off the road if you’re a truck driver. Drivers looking for natural ways to address some of the severe health problems that come with the job are out of luck. And only because of outdated regulations surrounding the use of marijuana.
Even medicinal marijuana, which is legal in many states, violates the DOT regulations. Even if a doctor has written a prescription to manage pain, anxiety, or other health problems, the driver is not able to use it.
A driver shortage driven by ruthless conditions and danger
The lack of truck drivers because of marijuana violations isn’t just a short-term problem. According to Stacker, “the return-to-duty process that commercial vehicle drivers must undergo once faced with a marijuana violation can keep them from returning to work at all.”
And it’s not just this one issue. Truck drivers have a thankless, often-underpaid job that’s lonely and filled with danger. Veteran drivers have called these careers really bad jobs, and claim that they’re navigating the country in 40-ton death machines.
The working conditions are also ruthless. Truck drivers need to meet tight schedules with very little wiggle room. A recent heartbreaking story that MotorBiscuit shared details a truck driver who had to sleep in a freezing truck cab when his cabin heater broke. But, he still had to make the delivery.
Are truck drivers in demand?
The truck driver shortage isn’t a new issue. The problem has been a problem for years, and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. Truck drivers are in high demand. Some companies are offering big bonuses and incentives—but not addressing any of the actual issues within the industry.
In the future, self-driving robot trucks may become a realistic option. Until then, the American freight industry will need to continue to battle against an increasing shortage of drivers. One start could be to loosen unnecessary regulations and monitoring.
But this level of intense scrutiny isn’t new for truck drivers. Truckers are some of the most heavily monitored workers in America. Scroll down to read more.