Spike in truck driver marijuana use compounds industry’s labor shortage

Truck drivers are testing positive for marijuana at a higher rate, causing an industry that’s already struggling with finding labor to lose more existing workers.

A new report from the U.S. Department of Transportation shows that nearly 41,000 truck drivers tested positive for marijuana in 2022 — a 32% increase over the previous year’s figure.

More than 100,000 truck drivers have tested positive for marijuana since the DOT expanded its drug reporting program back in 2020.

“Professional drivers are not allowed to use marijuana, even for medical reasons,” Eric Miller, a reporter who covers the DOT for Transport Topics, told WTOP. “The [National Transportation Safety Board] recommended that the [DOT] add a warning label to cannabis products regarding the potential for driving impairment, make enhancements to state drug-impaired driving laws, and standardize technology testing to detect drug use.”

He said that drivers who are flagged for marijuana use during a drug test need to meet with their doctor and develop a treatment plan that involves regular testing.

But according to Miller’s report, only about 46,000 have completed the process and are eligible to drive again as of Jan. 4. The other 91,000 of the more than 166,000 drivers who failed at least one drug test haven’t enrolled in the return-to-work process.

The American Trucking Association said last fall that the industry’s driver shortage eased slightly — going from 80,000 to 78,000 — but could still balloon to a shortage of 160,000 drivers by 2031.

WTOP’s Dan Ronan contributed to this report.

Matthew Delaney

Matt Delaney is a digital web writer/editor who joined WTOP in 2020.

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