By Joseph Evangelist
Executive Vice President, Transervice
As originally appeared in FleetOwner Magazine’s IdeaXchange
Between the opioid epidemic we hear about in the media and the conflict between federal law and state laws regarding marijuana use, now is a good time for fleets to review their drug use and testing policies.
Let’s start with marijuana. Despite being legal in a number of states, federal law still classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. This means truck drivers are not allowed to use it. If only it were that simple. Medical marijuana can complicate the issue in some cases. And unlike with alcohol, where there is a system that defines “under the influence” and also limits specifically for drivers — truck drivers can’t drive if their blood alcohol level is .02 and will be taken out of service if it reaches .04 — there are no limits set for marijuana use. However, drivers must be deemed fit for duty.
Marijuana will show up during a pre-employment drug screening and random drug testing and you need to determine what your policy will be, keeping in mind federal law.
As if dealing with marijuana isn’t complicated enough, the use of opioids is even more complex. Opioids like oxycodone, hydrocodone and codeine (names you may more easily recognize are OxyContin, Vicodin, Norco, Percocet), are not illegal substances when prescribed by a physician. They do however render a driver unfit for duty.
When a driver has been off work for violation of the Federal DOT Drug and Alcohol regulation, a medical review officer (MRO) has to determine that he or she is fit to return to duty. If the driver tests positive for an opioid, the MRO has to verify that the prescription is legitimate, that it was dispensed properly and that the driver can perform his safety-sensitive duties safely. That said, the driver always has the responsibility to tell the carrier if he is taking any medication that could impair his ability to drive.