Arkansas Trucking Association

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Up Front - A Tragic Contradiction

From the President's Desk

Three years ago a young man walked into a trucking company and applied for a job as a truck driver. The application process went well. So the company offered him a job—subject to passing a urinalysis—the federally mandated drug and alcohol exam that helps make sure we keep drug abusers from operating our tractor trailers.

As a matter of corporate policy, the company also required the applicant to pass a second drug exam—by removing a small half-inch snippet of hair and having it tested as well. You see, a urine test can identify drugs in your system over the last few days. Hair can identify drug use over the last few months. It's the preferred method in corporations where people are employed in high security or safety sensitive occupations. Although he passed the urinalysis, the hair test revealed he was a heavy cocaine user. So the trucking company sent him on his way.

 A couple weeks later he showed up at another trucking company a few states away. Again, he applied for a job as a truck driver and the application process and interview went well. The company offered him a job, subject to passing the federally required urinalysis. He passed the exam and was hired and began transporting long-haul freight across the country.

 It was around midnight that a Colorado policeman spotted a tractor trailer going westbound in the eastbound lane of I-70 outside Denver. He gave chase in the westbound lane, blue lights flashing—for nine, long, heart pounding miles. Still the policeman could not get the truck driver to stop. And then it inevitably happened. The rig plowed into an oncoming car, killing the driver, a 71 year old grandfather. The truck driver was unhurt. In his post-accident drug test the truck driver was found to be in an alcohol and cocaine induced haze. Yes, it was the same young man in our story.

This tragedy could have been avoided. But there was a flaw in the system. The second trucking company personnel didn't know this applicant had tested positive for cocaine only weeks earlier. If they had, he wouldn't have been hired. That's why U.S. Senator Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Congressman Rick Crawford (R-Ark.) led the way last year and persuaded Congress to create a national drug and alcohol clearinghouse. Now, by next year, trucking companies will ping a database to see if their job applicants have previously tested positive for drugs.

But there's a second critical problem. You won't find people like the truck driver in this story in the database. He passed his urinalysis, both times. You see, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) sets the drug testing guidelines for the Department of Transportation. Even though its charge is to keep drug abusers out of our trucks and off our highways, the HHS has refused to recognize hair testing as an approved method for identifying drug users. So the DOT doesn't either. This means those positive hair test results can't be submitted to the clearinghouse, permitting thousands of drug users like our truck driver to skirt the system.
So, Pryor and Crawford have vowed to persuade HHS for them—to pass legislation directing HHS to recognize hair testing as an option in pre-employment testing for truck drivers. A good idea, a life-saving idea, and they deserve our help.

Contact Us

Arkansas Trucking Association
PO Box 3476 (72203)
1401 West Capitol Ave.
Little Rock, AR 72201

(501) 372-3462 | Phone
(501) 376-1810 | Fax

Our Mission

  • PROTECT the collective interests of trucking companies in the political and regulatory arenas.
  • PROMOTE the dynamics of trucking so that people have a better understanding of the link between America's primary freight delivery system and the standard of living they enjoy.
  • SERVE our members to help them to grow their business and their profits
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