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Dealing with conflicting marijuana rules in the U.S. tricky for carriers


SAN DIEGO, Calif. – Unlike Canada, which has federally legalized the recreational use of marijuana, the U.S. is all over the map when it comes to the drug’s use.

During a panel discussion at the American Trucking Associations’ (ATA) Management Conference and Exhibition today, Greer Woodruff, senior vice-president of safety, security, and driver personnel at JB Hunt Transport, said carriers need to have a testing policy, as it can often act as a deterrent to those using cannabis.

“Our results demonstrate the deterrent nature of these drugs,” said Woodruff. “We’re pushing a lot of those driver to other trucking companies that don’t have the same protocols.”

Woodruff said drug testing using hair follicles has resulted in a 63% drop in the random DOT urine testing rate for company drivers.

Drivers looking to work for JB Hunt are told the company will conduct a hair follicle drug test, and just knowing has brought on some self-elimination by some users of the drug.

“We have added to our drug testing protocols to further deter those who feel these kinds of things are OK,” said Woodruff.

Todd Simo, managing director of transportation and DHS at HireRight, urged attendees to employ the same proactive measures as JB Hunt, saying, “10 out of 10 people who use drugs know it.”

Simo said carriers must implement a policy to address both safety sensitive and non-safety sensitive workers, as rules for all types of employees will not always mirror each other.

“Look at your policy and define who is safety sensitive and who isn’t,” Simo said, adding that laws and company policies around accommodating individual rights need to be examined. “Reasonable accommodation does not mean you have to accommodate.”

Simo said one of the issues around the use of marijuana is that it is not clear how long users are impaired, unlike alcohol, which has a more obvious timeframe.

Simo said though marijuana users are more aware of their intoxicated state than are those who use alcohol, the drug is not one to be ignored.

“From an occupational intoxication perspective, marijuana is much worse than alcohol,” he claimed.

Paul Enos is the CEO of the Nevada Trucking Association, and he said the use of marijuana and regulations to protect those who use from being denied employment are issues he sees spreading across the U.S.

But at the end of the day, the trucking industry must stay ahead of the issue and avoid safety concerns.

“Safety is paramount of every single thing we do,” said Enos. “We as an industry need to be prepared when we have conversations to bring it back to safety.”

Enos said there are several tensions between state and federal regulators when it comes to marijuana use and testing policies. Some jurisdictions require blood testing, while other permit only hair, urine, or saliva testing to determine legal impairment.

He added that with the use of CBD products, some people are under the impression they can be free of THC, but because this is an area unregulated by the federal government, that may not always be the case.

Woodruff said cannabis use by those operating commercial vehicles has had a negative impact on the industry.

“We have a safety crisis,” he said. “If 10% of people are using illicit drugs and driving a truck, that’s a problem.”

Woodruff said though the number committing this act is small, they harm the industry’s image.

“We need to identify those people and remove them until they are rehabilitated,” he said.

Panel moderator Harold Sumerford added, “We’ve got to get the federal people involved in this so we have uniform legislation.”

ATA marijuana panel

ATA marijuana panel.


Derek Clouthier

Derek Clouthier

A university graduate with a degree in English, I have worked in the media industry as an editor, reporter and now as editor of Truck West. I have several years of management experience in journalism, as well as hospitality, but am first and foremost a writer, both professionally and in my personal life, having completed two fiction novels. derek@newcom.ca @DerekClouthier
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