Transportation Chief Proposes Drug Tests for Truckers, Bus Drivers
Jun. 10, 1988
WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (AP) _ U.S. Transportation Secretary Jim Burnley called Friday for drug tests for up to 5 million drivers of interstate trucks, passenger buses and vehicles carrying hazardous materials.
''We must act to identify those commercial drivers who abuse drugs and get them off the roads. When one drugged truck or bus driver goes out on the road, he not only puts the lives of many people in danger, he gives the entire work force a bad reputation,'' Burnley said.
His announcement at a news conference here follows similar proposals unveiled in March for the aviation industry and in May for railroads.
There are no firm statistics to indicate how many truck drivers are drug abusers, Burnley said. But he cited a June 1987 test of 317 tractor-trailer drivers in Tennessee that showed 15 percent of the drivers tested positive for marijuana, cocaine or prescription stimulants.
He also noted a survey of 1,300 truck drivers in Florida in which 36 percent said they sometimes drove under the influence of drugs.
''When society has a drug problem, no segment of our population, from welfare recipients to Wall Street brokers, is exempt from it. The trucking industry is clearly vulnerable as well,'' Burnley said.
''Operating these large, heavy vehicles requires that a driver be fully alert and in complete control of his mental faculties,'' he added.
The proposed rule would cover 3 million to 5 million people who drive commercial motor vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds, vehicles that transport 16 or more people or vehicles that transport hazardous materials. School bus drivers and city bus drivers would not be affected by the proposal, he said.
The Department of Transportation is proposing five types of drug testing: pre-employment, random, post-accident, as part of a physical, and for reasonable cause when a trucker is suspected of using narcotics.
Burnley did not suggest a budget or method of payment for the drug testing plan.
In Washington, the American Trucking Associations endorsed the effort but expressed concerns about how the tests would be implemented.
Lana Batts, a legislative specialist at the trade organization, said there is concern the tests would focus on drivers for large companies and not reach many of the estimated 400,000 owner-operator drivers and those driving for small companies.
The Transportation Department has suggested small companies or independent operators might join together to develop a testing program.
Batts said the trucking companies favor legislation calling for roadside drug tests for truckers to be established as a pilot program in four states. That legislation has passed the Senate, but has yet to be considered in the House.
Burnley said he would ask for help from the industry and the public in seeking effective ways to reach independent truckers.
The program calls for those whose positive drug tests are confirmed in follow-ups to be barred from driving in interstate commerce. Depending on circumstances, the employee could be reinstated upon successful completion of a rehabilitation program.
The program does not cover alcohol abuse because states already have strict laws governing drunken drivers, he said. Burnley added that studies have shown truck drivers use less alcohol but more stimulants than the public.