According to a recent report published by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) which used data from the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse, a total of 41,000 truck drivers tested positive for cannabis use in 2022, corresponding to a 32% increase compared to 2021. Furthermore, cocaine, methamphetamines, and amphetamines placed second, third, and fourth, respectively, among substances which accounted for the most truck driver drug-test failures.

Overall, there was an 18% increase in the number of total drug violations reported to the clearinghouse in 2022 compared to 2021, while the FMCSA tests for a total of 14 substances.

“Unfortunately, the number of [cannabis] positives in the Clearinghouse continues to trend in the wrong direction,” said Dan Horvath, vice president of safety policy for American Trucking Associations in his interview with Transport Topics. “When you take into account legalization efforts across the country, coupled with misinformation about when [cannabis] use is legal or not, I’m not at all surprised. The simple fact is not a thing has changed with regard to this DOT-regulated industry — specifically, CDL holders.”

Earlier in January, the NTSB raised concerns over increasing numbers of positive drug tests among truck drivers and recommended for the Department of Transportation (DOT) to add a warning label to cannabis products regarding the potential for driving impairment, make amendments to state drug-impaired driving laws, and standardize technology testing for the detection of drug use.

“We’ve long known about the devastating impact of alcohol-impaired driving, but this [NTSB] report shows that impairment from other drugs, especially cannabis, is a growing concern that needs to be addressed,” NTSB board member Tom Chapman.

In addition, increased cannabis use has contributed to the loss of qualified CDL drivers.

The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) vice president Jeff Short said the institute has begun research on the effects of cannabis decriminalization on the trucking industry.

“We’re going into workforce implications, putting out a survey to safety executives, overall company executives, human resources executives to see what their experiences are with hiring and with maintaining the workforce with testing as well as how many drivers hired in certain states are having difficulties,” he said.

According to the FMCSA, approximately 91,000 of the more than 166,000 drivers who failed at least one drug test have not yet enrolled in the return-to-work process. “You can speculate that there is a strong job market, and it may just be easier — instead of going through that [return-to-work] process — to go to a place where testing might not be required or where it’s simply not as strict,” said Short.