By Jami Jones
If the objective of the DOT’s drug testing program is to rid the roads of truck drivers with substance abuse problems – there’s a better way to go about it.
That was the message the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association conveyed to the Department of Transportation on the agency’s most recent proposal to revamp the drug testing procedures facing truck drivers.
OOIDA President Jim Johnston pointed out that OOIDA supports a zero-tolerance approach to drug use – by supporting any changes to drug testing and reporting procedures that will, in a cost-efficient manner, effectively keep drivers with drug problems off the road until those problems have been addressed.
The Association encouraged the agency to reward drivers with a proven track record of compliance while simultaneously targeting drivers who have not.
In the Association’s comments, Johnston recommended taking drivers who have tested negative in five consecutive qualifying drug tests – such as reasonable suspicion, post- accident and random tests – and haven’t ever had a positive and put them in a pool of drivers subject to a 25 percent annual random testing rate.
All other drivers – even new drivers and drivers who have not been randomly selected – remain in the 50 percent annual testing rate pool.
The Association contends that by removing the drug-free drivers, the likelihood of a driver who is using drugs being called to take a random drug test inevitably will go up.
OOIDA also agreed with the agency’s proposal to add MDMA – dubbed Ecstasy – and certain heroin metabolites to the list of drugs to be tested for.
The Association did not, however, back the DOT’s recommendation to go to a more automated drug testing system where smaller stand-alone clinics would do an initial screening. If the test came back as anything other than negative, the sample would be forwarded to a full clinic for additional testing.
OOIDA leadership is concerned on many levels with this proposal, including possible sample contamination, additional cost burdens, delays in resolving false positives, etc.
The Association sees the current system of using full labs for all testing, which can quickly resolve potential errors in testing, as the quickest and cheapest way to conduct drug testing. LL