Who's in the rig next to you?

May 21, 2008 5:06:50 PM PDT
We share the road with them all the time, but now, a new government report released Wednesday shows many of those truck drivers may be breaking the law. The study shows thousands of truckers who fail drug tests may still be driving big rigs. It's a problem with testing and oversight that could put all of us in danger.

Nationwide, there's about 5,500 deaths involving big rigs each year and another 160,000 injuries. While speeding and fatigue are blamed for most, the government is concerned drugs may be increasing the risk.

Before Clinton Brinson hits the road, his truck must be road ready. And thanks to his company, so must he. He says he's tested for drugs every 45 days.

"They do it right there on the yard, so it's pretty regular," he told us.

But, he knows it's not always the case. The last company he worked for, he says, tested him only once the four years he was there.

"They got like 12 trucks," said Clinton. "They don't care. As long as their freight's delivered, they don't care."

It's that concern being raised in a federal report released Tuesday. The Government Accountability Office describes what it calls a flawed oversight system.

According to the report, fewer than half of the estimated 85,000 truck drivers who test positive in random drug tests each year actually finish the required treatment and follow-up before they return to the job.

"They'll get tested when they first hire and then they never get seen again," said Clinton.

The report says a big contributor to the problem is that some companies, about 9 percent, don't bother to conduct random drug tests. In addition, dishonest truckers who fail a drug test can easily get fired in one state, and then go work in another.

Truck driver Robert Garza doesn't think it's nearly as bad as the government makes out.

"They need to check it out a little bit further, maybe investigate some more," he said.

Either way, the report calls for massive changes, including:

  • Reviewing company operations, both new and existing.
  • A full audit of all company drug test programs to make sure they compliant with federal law.
  • A nationwide database where companies can check employee records in other states.

the Texas Department of Public Safety does have a database available to companies only showing drivers who failed a drug test and those who refused it. However, according to this study, the number of companies reporting to that database is low.

We made several attempts to reach a DPS spokesperson Wednesday. We are still waiting to hear from them.

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