The Trucking Alliance has preached driver safety for years, lobbying for electronic logging devices and hair testing drivers for illegal drug use.
Now, the Alliance says it has some concrete and scary numbers to support its stance on hair testing. Managing Director Lane Kidd said a recent Alliance survey was particularly revealing.
The Alliance’s formal name is the Alliance for Driver Safety & Security, a lobbying group of some of the country’s top companies, and was the brainchild of Steve Williams, the CEO of Maverick USA in North Little Rock. Kidd was the president of the Arkansas Trucking Association for 22 years before joining the Alliance in 2014.
The Alliance recently released a survey examining data from 15 companies that use hair testing in addition to urine testing for drug use by prospective employees in 2017 and 2018. The survey included more than 150,000 drivers from across the nation and found that nearly 13,000 of them failed or declined to take a hair test after passing a urine test.
The survey was given to researchers Joe Cangelosi and Doug Voss at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway. They determined that the survey was representative and could be “generalized across the national driver population” with a margin of error of less than 1%.
“We were totally shocked when we saw the results,” Kidd said. “Even though the individual companies have been tracking the results internally, it was the first time all of the companies decided to aggregate their results and see what they looked like. I don’t think anybody expected to see the positive rate as high as it is. We have a real public safety crisis in the trucking industry.”
One of the major companies of the Alliance is J.B. Hunt Transport Services of Lowell, which has been testing the hair of job applicants since 2008. Kidd said J.B. Hunt’s positive results were lower than the other companies in the survey, which isn’t too surprising because the company’s long advocacy of hair testing is probably well known to applicants.
The results also raise an alarming consideration: If 8.5% of applicants failed their hair-based drug test after applying at companies that are known to test in such a way, how many drug-using applicants are applying at less stringent companies?
Kidd said because of Cangelosi and Voss’ certification of the survey’s protocol, the Alliance was confident in saying that more than 300,000 truck drivers on the roads would fail a more thorough drug screening.
“Our position is if you’re going to work in an occupation where you’re performing your work in the public sector, putting the public at risk, we want to make sure those workers are not habitual drug users,” Kidd said. “It’s not like if you were a bookkeeper. It’s a higher standard.”
The trucking industry is also facing a driver shortage problem, and stricter drug testing would conceivably reduce the number of available drivers. That’s not to say, of course, that a cocaine-fueled driver is better than no driver at all.
Kidd said stricter standards will be part of how the trucking industry revives the driver pool.
He parroted the United States Marine Corps recruiting pitch: The Few. The Proud. The Marines.
“The way the trucking industry will ever truly alleviate its shortage is making it harder to become a truck driver,” Kidd said.
“They don’t make it seem like anybody can become a Marine. You have to be qualified and meet certain standards. In order to raise the level of professionalism in any industry, you increase the standards that people have to adhere to.
“The trucking industry has made it way too easy for anybody to become a truck driver.”