Article

Drug Testing: The Heat Is On

We can expect this summer's legislation to address tighter enforcement.

July 2008, TruckingInfo.com - Editorial

by Doug Condra, President

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The web site is very specific: Use its product and "Not only will your [urine] test be clean the first time, but if you have to retest that day, you'll be covered."

The site, like scores of others, blatantly peddles an array of solutions for drug users to beat the system. They range from pills to be taken on the day of the test, to complete body cleansers consumed over longer periods of time - all made, of course, from "the finest natural ingredients." Synthetic urine (about $40) comes complete with its own warmer and temperature strip. 

This ridiculous situation is a large part of the reason our federal drug testing system is so riddled with holes (see story on page 18).

Thousands of drivers have beaten the system and are apparently driving big rigs while on drugs or alcohol. The scenario must have trial lawyers salivating over every heavy truck accident they hear about.

But the problems go far deeper than a bunch of jerks selling chemical kits online.

The Government Accountability Office found flaws in nearly every area of the Department of Transportation's testing program. That got the attention of Congress, and don't be surprised to see legislative action by fall.

GAO investigators made their own fake Commercial Driver's Licenses using readily available software and hardware. That means it would be easy for someone other than a real driver to take the test for him or her. The agents also verified that the chemical kits and synthetic urine do, in fact, work.

The fact that 22 of the 24 urine collection sites investigated did not follow protocol means drug users might not be detected, even if they didn't fake their tests.

Carriers aren't doing their part either, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. In 2007, the two most frequent violations it found among fleets were failure to perform random testing (3,075 violations) and failure to do pre-employment testing (2,761 violations).

About 700 fleets checked had no drug testing program at all. There were 190 cases where carriers allowed drivers who tested positive to stay on their jobs. Another 180 or so fleets failed to do post-accident testing. 

Fines for these violations ranged from an average $1,605 for failing to do pre-employment testing, to $3,141 for not removing a drug user from service. They don't seem to be much of a deterrent.

Obviously, a lot has to change. We can expect this summer's legislation to address tighter enforcement. To a politician, this is like shooting fish in a barrel; it's God, motherhood, and damn what few torpedoes might be out there. We can expect Congress to establish a national database of drivers who have tested positive, refused to be tested, or cheated on tests.

And well it should; this madness has to stop.

Advocates for privacy rights have issues with that database idea. But this is where the public good must be weighed against an individual's right to get high, climb into a big rig and put others' lives at risk.

While members of Congress are bringing on that database, they should ask themselves this: Since illegal drugs are illegal, why do we allow chemicals that beat drug tests to be sold legally?


E-mail Doug Condra at dcondra@truckinginfo.com, or write P.O. Box W, Newport Beach, CA 92658.

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