New data released by the federal Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse shows Texas topping the list of number of registered truck drivers with a positive drug and/or alcohol test violation but Louisiana ranking highest in violation rates based on number of employers.
According to the latest clearinghouse data (as of May 1) released by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), Texas recorded 7,268 violations, followed by California with 5,312 and Florida with 4,033. The number of violations in those states are understandably high because they are among those with the highest number of employers that register violations into the clearinghouse.
However, when considering the number of violations per number of registered employers, Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia top the list, with violation rates of 51.5%, 45.0% and 44.0%, respectively, among the 25 states with the highest number of registered employers (between 3,000 and 26,000).
The top violation rates among all states regardless of the number of employers were Louisiana, Hawaii and Mississippi, with rates of 72.3%, 61% and 59.3%. (The District of Columbia compiled 85 violations with only 66 employers registered in the clearinghouse, for a rate of 129%.)
Jared Rosenthal, a drug screening expert and founder of Health Street, noted that some of the states with the highest violation rates were also those with the strictest marijuana legalization laws, a potential trend that is the opposite of what some might have expected.
However, he said, “I think it would be important to know the average number of employees per employer as well as the number of employers per state,” he told FreightWaves. “This is interesting information, but I think more data is needed before being able to draw conclusions about the effect of individual state marijuana laws on driving safety.”
Positive drug (as opposed to alcohol) tests account for 81% of the total violations reported to the FMCSA’s clearinghouse, with marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamines topping the list. Of the 69,565 drivers currently registered in the clearinghouse with at least one violation, 57,510 – 83% – are in prohibited status, meaning that they have not completed the required return-to-duty process.
The 5,348 drug and alcohol violations recorded in April, the latest month available, were up 71% compared to April 2020, when 3,123 violations were recorded, according to the clearinghouse.
P. Sean Garney, vice president at Scopelitis Transportation Consulting, pointed out earlier this year that the number of drivers determined to be eligible for return-to-duty testing but not yet having taken the test has been increasing, which suggests that some drivers “may be struggling to find an employer willing to sponsor their return-to-duty testing and are therefore having a hard time returning to trucking.”