In early 2020, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration created a Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse that logs drug and alcohol infractions received by commercial truck drivers in New York and across the nation. The clearinghouse tracks all types of drug infractions, with data from 2022 revealing that marijuana use, in particular, is becoming more widespread among this demographic.
According to Transport Topics, the number of truckers who tested positive for marijuana rose 32% between 2021 and 2022, with almost 41,000 truckers testing positive for the substance in 2022 alone.
How marijuana use affects driving ability
Using marijuana while driving is dangerous when anyone does it. Yet, the stakes are even higher when the person using marijuana is sitting behind the wheel of a massive, heavy commercial truck. Marijuana use slows a driver’s reaction time, making him or her less likely to be able to avoid a crash. Marijuana use also has the capacity to hinder coordination, distort perception, cause memory loss and reduce problem-solving skills, all of which heighten the risk of an accident.
How the FMCSA handles substance-abusing truckers
Once a truck driver’s name appears in the clearinghouse for failing a drug test, that driver must follow a particular return-to-duty process to begin driving professionally again. However, studies show that many truck drivers do not bother going through the process. Of the 166,000 drivers who failed a drug test and had the failure logged in the clearinghouse, less than 46,000 have become eligible to drive again.
Truck drivers who use marijuana or other mind-altering substances and cause crashes may face professional as well as criminal consequences.