New marijuana laws a problem for food transportation

New Marijuana Laws a Possible Challenge for Food Transportation

Truck driver shortages are already a challenge for food businesses.

2-minute read

As new marijuana laws come into effect in more states, food transportation businesses face the possibility of increased driver shortages due to pre-employment drug testing.

FMSCA mandates drug testing for marijuana (and other illicit drugs) for Commercial Driver License (CDL) employees.

However, now that marijuana use is legal in many states, policymakers may eventually need to re-evaluate how testing is done.

Moreover, in the current tight labor market, pre-employment drug testing is deterring potential employees from applying to jobs.

Critical truck driver shortages

The food industry is no stranger to transportation problems due to pervasive truck-driver shortages. With trucks moving most of the food within the U.S., the overall 60, 000-plus driver shortfall is critical.

Contributing to the problem is the widening gap between an aging workforce and the industry’s challenge of finding drivers to fill the spots.

Also, electronic logging device (ELD) laws that rolled out in 2015 (the final compliance deadline is this December) resulted in costly shipping delays, as well as final-straw driver frustration.

Additionally, state and federal policies on marijuana legalization and drug-testing mandates are creating challenges for driver-strapped businesses.

Traditional drug-testing

Required Department of Transportation (DOT) drug testing identifies marijuana (and other illicit drugs) in the bloodstream — usually via a urine sample. Due to how the body metabolizes and stores marijuana compounds, the substance may show up in the user’s system 30 days after cannabis use.

This is long after the drugged feeling from tetrahydrocannabinol (THC—the intoxicating component of marijuana) has worn off.

A traditional drug test will identify THC in the bloodstream. But it will not measure the individual’s ability to operate a vehicle.

Under Federal law, businesses must give new drivers a pre-employment drug test. But potential new hires, the “bloodstream” testing can be a deterrent.

New marijuana laws may mean new testing

The transportation research group ATRI recently released a study on marijuana legalization and impaired driving.

ATRI’s findings suggest a need for marijuana-impairment testing. For now, that includes deploying drug recognition experts (or DREs) for identifying cannabis-impaired drivers: “A DRE can bring critical evidence to prosecutors that other tests simply cannot measure.”

As research continues, and impairment testing tools become available, policymakers may consider evaluating for marijuana impairment versus just testing for the presence of drugs in an individual’s system.

In the meantime, for food industry businesses wrestling with severe driver shortages, the sooner federal testing and state marijuana policies align, the better.

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