The Trucking Alliance Pushes to Enhance Driver Drug Testing

The trucking industry is no stranger to America’s opioid crisis. Many long haul truckers in the country struggle with chronic pain. The stress of long hauls can cause nerve, joint and muscle pain, and many doctors prescribe opioids to truck drivers to help them overcome the pain and continue doing their jobs. Carrying prescription opioids directly puts a driver at risk for addiction and overdose. Even a comprehensive trucking liability insurance program may not provide coverage for opioid-related liability claims.

The Trucking Alliance, also known as the Alliance for Driver Safety & Security, is trying to tackle this issue head-on. Earlier this year, they spoke at the United Nations regarding the opioid crisis, sharing that in 2017 alone, over 1200 driver applicants failed the pre-employment screening for opioids. The alliance recently announced its push for congressional passage of a new drug testing law requiring anyone applying for a safety-sensitive job in the trucking industry to verify that they have not participated in illegal drug use or exhibited signs of opioid addiction for at least 30 days prior to employment.

The Inaccuracies of Government-Mandated Tests

Morphine-based painkillers such as Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, Fentanyl, Codeine and Methadone are common opioids that are prone to being abused by drivers on the road. Due to the nature of how most opiates pass through the human body, unless applicants have taken them within a few hours of being tested, they are likely to pass a urinalysis, and in many cases a blood test as well. Lane Kidd, managing director of The Trucking Alliance, told UN attendees that in 2017, J.B. Hunt Transport identified 1,213 people who tested positive for illegal drugs or abused opioids on their pre-employment hair test. However, 90% of the company’s truck driver applicants passed the government-mandated urinalysis test, clearly showing that current pre-employment drug test protocols are not offering an accurate picture of an applicant’s drug use.

While some transport companies like J.B. Hunt take the extra precaution of using a hair test to screen driver applicants, most of those rejected applicants can find jobs at other transportation companies, because the majority of transport companies in the U.S. only use the minimum federally-required urinalysis.

The Push for Hair Testing

Since 2006, J.B. Hunt Transport has rejected 5,060 job applicants who failed their hair test after passing their urinalysis. The knowledge that those applicants could reasonably have gone on to gain employment with a transport company that had less strict testing methods is something that does not sit well with the Trucking Alliance. They’re pushing for Congress to update the U.S. Department of Transportation’s pre-employment drug test protocols to include hair-testing for new drivers, as well as for established drivers in order to renew their commercial licenses, to help ensure the transportation industry is as safe as it can be.

What this Means for Insurance

The opioid epidemic has greatly increased the liabilities of those in the trucking industry. Medicated or otherwise impaired drivers have a greater risk of causing accidents or making other errors with their work, and the insurance industry has had to adjust their offerings in order to account for the effects that opioid addiction has had on their claims. For insurance purposes, these drug tests will become important as they will help to determine the cause of accidents or other incidents and whether they would fall under the realm of Trucking Auto Liability coverage or if they would be excluded. However, in the midst of this epidemic, it is important that drug testing and other similar actions do not cross over into HIPAA violations.


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