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Positive Workplace Drug Test Results Hits 20-Year High
Mariah Barr
5 mins read

Federally mandated workers, like truck drivers, are failing drug tests more often. This isn’t just a problem for their employers – this is a safety crisis for everyone sharing the roads with them. 

According to an annual analysis completed by lab services provider Quest Diagnostics, the positive drug test rate for U.S. workers reached its highest level in two decades in 2021. The transportation and warehousing industries showed the highest overall positivity rate increases from 4.4% to 5.5%.

Over 11 million samples from workers in the U.S. were taken for the Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index. The specimens were from both the general workforce as well as employees in safety-sensitive positions who are required to take regular drug tests under Federal law, such as truckers, pilots, train conductors, and those who work in nuclear power plants.  

When researchers took a closer look at the samples, 4.6% of them tested positive, which is up from 4.4% in 2020. It’s the biggest single-year increase in drug testing positivity rates since 2001.

Federal Workers Testing Positive: The Numbers 

Here’s what the report found from the urine samples of federally mandated, safety-sensitive workers included in the study: 

  • The marijuana positivity rate was 0.86% last year, an 8.9% increase from 2020 
  • The positivity rate for amphetamines increased 7.8% 
  • The positivity rate for cocaine was up 5% 
  • The overall positivity rate remained stable at 2.2%, which is up 4.8% since 2017

It’s undoubtedly concerning to see these numbers trending upward, even with the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse enforcements being in place since January 6, 2020. 

Now is the time to prepare for hair follicle drug testing. Are you ready? 

Clearinghouse Drug Violations Continue to Grow 

The DOT Clearinghouse is also reporting a rise in drug violations. 

In the FMCSA’s latest Monthly Summary Report, there were 4,873 overall drug and alcohol violations for January 2022, up from 4,198 in January 2021 and 3,758 in January 2020. On top of those jumping numbers, positive drug tests accounted for 82% of the total violations reported.  

In line with the Quest Diagnostics data, the FMCSA also reported marijuana, cocaine, and amphetamines as three of the top five most-used substances among truck drivers. 

Both drivers and carriers will face the repercussions of failed drug tests. Once a driver has a drug or alcohol violation recorded in the Clearinghouse, they must be removed from any safety-sensitive duties, including operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV). They will not be able to work until they have completed the return-to-duty process.  

Are You Running Compliant Clearinghouse Queries? Find Out in Our FREE Webinar! 

Don’t Become Part of the Problem 

The DOT isn’t going to stop cracking down on drug use in CMV drivers, which means it’s time to make sure your fleet knows the risks of driving under the influence. Having a compliant drug and alcohol testing program and regular DOT Clearinghouse query policies have never been more important.  

You could face expensive fines, have a lawsuit on your hands, or your fleet could receive Clearinghouse rating downgrades as a result of positive drug test reports. None of these consequences are worth the risk. 

Managing your fleet’s safe, drug-free practices isn’t always black and white, but partnering with the right third-party administrator can make everything crystal clear.

Foley’s compliance experts can answer any questions you may have and set you up for success in the Clearinghouse. To learn more about our all-in-one screening and compliance platform, request a free demo today! 

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