Wells Fargo Financial Analyst Blames Pot Prohibition for Lack of Truckers In The Country

Wells Fargo Financial Analyst Blames Pot Prohibition for Lack of Truckers In The Country

While the strenuous lifestyle of truckers has been a leading cause for their shortage in America, a Wells Fargo financial analyst believes there is another setback exacerbating the deficiency. The executive blames the federal prohibition of cannabis for the nation’s lack of truckers. 

Chris Harvey, the head of equity strategy at Wells Fargo, expressed that screening for cannabis is a principal factor in the current driver shortage that is afflicting trucking companies. He acknowledged that the hardships faced by truckers aren’t making the situation any better. 

The drug screenings, paired with the nature of the job requiring drivers to spend weeks away from home, have caused many of them to leave the industry. 

Although authorities have legalized cannabis in several states, the substance remains illegal in many jurisdictions. Since marijuana is yet to get federal clearance, this has caused the exclusion of a considerable portion of the trucking industry.

While speaking on an industry conference call last month, Harvey also pointed out that COVID-19 restrictions worsened the situation. Consequently, this has increased transport prices and led to the minimal supply of goods to stores.

Cannabis testing during the employee screening process has been under debate in recent years as more countries legalize the substance. Support of cannabis reforms is at an all-time high as more people accept cannabis for its medical and recreational benefits.  

A poll by Gallup from 2021 found that nearly half of all American adults have tried cannabis. Thirty-seven states have decriminalized medical marijuana, while 18 have legalized recreational consumption.  

Drug policies in the trucking industry have become rather stringent in recent years. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), truckers nowadays undergo random screenings for drugs and alcohol every four months. If they test positive for any of the banned substances, authorities immediately release them from their duties. 

Furthermore, the FMCSA regulations dictate that refusal to submit to a drug test is generally equivalent to testing positive. 

The need for marijuana screening contradicts a recent Swiss study that found that cannabis does not affect driving. The study found no significant difference in reaction time or motor function after smoking CBD-rich marijuana.

In January 2020, new legislation was implemented requiring the FMCSA to create and maintain a federal database for all truck drivers who have failed an alcohol or drugs test. With this information, logistics companies would be able to avoid flagged candidates. 

Formerly, truck drivers could theoretically move to another company after failing a drug test in a different one. However, the new legislation would prevent such candidates from getting another job until they complete a thorough clearance process. 

The new ordinance has already affected more than 100,000 truckers, half of whom tested positive for cannabis. Consequently, it has led to a shortage of around 80,000 truck drivers in the country. 

The director of the safety and health department at Teamsters, Lamont Byrd, argued that testing positive for cannabis does not equate to driver impairment. He also pointed out that testing for cannabis can be a challenge since authorities are yet to find a suitable roadside test for cannabis impairment.

Since the new law came into effect, thousands of truck drivers have been disqualified from job opportunities. Sean Garney, vice president of Scopelitis Transportation Consulting, believes that the new database has reduced the trucker workforce by about 2.5 percent.

Despite the decrease of these essential workers, Garney acknowledged that it is crucial to ensure drivers who are not eligible to drive shouldn’t be given that obligation. He also pointed out that close to 50,000 truck drivers are ineligible to operate commercial vehicles since the new law became effective. 

Garney also highlighted that the pandemic has not made things easier for the trucking industry as it has halted numerous driver training programs. Driving schools now train 20 to 50 percent fewer drivers due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The electronic logging device coordinator of Hettinger Trucking, Mary Bohl, also recognizes the effects of FMCSA’s drugs and alcohol clearinghouse. She expressed how challenging it has been for her firm to acquire new drivers and retain the current ones. 

The new rules have led many applicants for trucking jobs to reconsider their decision before finishing the process. Some were open to the job opportunity but turned it down after finding out about registering with the drug and alcohol clearinghouse.

As a result, Hettinger Trucking has seen a significant reduction in their drivers, dropping from 17 to only nine. As the pandemic and the drug and alcohol clearinghouse continue to wreak havoc in the trucking industry, only time will tell whether drivers will be able to use their dab rigs without fear of losing their jobs.

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