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Drug Test Failures Causing Driver Exodus From Trucking Industry


Over 38,000 commercially licensed truck drivers failed federally mandated drug screens for marijuana in 2023 and many are not reapplying for work within the industry, according to data provided by the US Department of Transportation.

Additionally, nearly 13,000 drivers in 2023 failed to show up for their required drug tests – the highest number of refusals ever reported by the agency.

Federal law mandates commercially licensed drivers to undergo random marijuana urinalysis testing, which detects the presence of the inert carboxy-THC metabolite. This non-psychoactive metabolite is detectable in subjects’ urine for weeks or even months following past exposure. According to a report from the US Department of Justice, the detection of this metabolite “only indicates that a particular substance is present in the test subject’s body tissue. It does not indicate abuse or addiction; recency, frequency, or amount of use; or impairment.”

Since 2020, more than 139,000 commercially licensed drivers have failed mandatory drug tests for cannabis – far more than the total number of test failures for all other substances combined. Approximately 70 percent of drivers with drug test failures have not reapplied for work.

In 2023, the US Department of Transportation proposed changes to existing federal drug testing guidelines to allow oral fluid testing as an alternative to urinalysis for those working in the transportation industry. However, those changes have not yet been implemented.

Lawmakers in several states – including California and New York – have amended their laws so that most employers may not terminate workers solely based on a positive drug test for the presence of THC metabolites. However, those statewide protections do not apply to federally licensed workers.

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