Trucks at Work

A troubling review of driver records

Our findings continue to show the challenges transportation organizations, and those employing commercial drivers, face when monitoring their drivers and trying to meet compliance standards.” –Hayley Hitchcock, director-vertical strategy, LexisNexis Risk Solutions

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It’s a study with results no one likes to see, documenting a steep rise not only in truck driver employment application discrepancies but in positive drug tests as well.

Yet while those trend lines are definitely worrisome, they also require a good bit of context to be interpreted fairly – especially as fleets are only now, in the wake of renewed regulatory focus on these areas, really starting to take a hard look the data encapsulated within driver applications.

It must be remembered, too, that a spate of new drug tests with far more sensitive chemical analysis are being used within the industry today – especially ones that test hair follicles for drugs – and thus could be uncovering narcotics use that, until now, had remained hidden from view.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the findings of the LexisNexis Risk Solutions 2011 Commercial Driver Safety Report.

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First, a key caveat: LexisNexis used driver qualification file statistics that included real-time data capture from trucking customers suing its services between May 2010 and July 2011. And while the report ostensibly focuses on trucking customers, the company stressed that it includes clients that may fall outside traditional definitions of the transportation industry, yet that employ commercial drivers and are thus required to comply with trucking industry regulations.

With that in mind, here’s some of what LexisNexis uncovered:

• Commercial driver applications with incomplete or inaccurate information increased 20% in 2011, reaching 31.42%, up from 11.78% in 2010

• Motor vehicle reports (MVRs) that contain “adverse findings,” indicating one or more violations such as a revoked license, are consistently increasing year after year, reaching 50.33% in 2011, up from 48.2% in 2008

Drug test trending results weren’t very cheerful either:

• Cocaine usage increased by seven percentage points

• Amphetamine usage increased by two percentage points

• Opiate usage demonstrated a slight increase

• Phencyclidine usage – a drug more commonly known as “PCP” or “Angel Dust” – thankfully showed a slight decrease

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[You can access a webinar LexisNexis put together with HR.com discussing its report in more detail by clicking here.]

However, none of the above findings in my view indicates an industry on the wrong track. Far from it, actually, because I think the data points above are the result of longtime industry efforts focused on both cleaning up and speeding up the driver application process, while beefing up efforts to flush chronic drug abuse from the truck driver ranks.

If anything, it highlights yet again that reversing such trend lines won’t be an overnight process. It’ll require time and dedication on the part of all the parties involved in the freight business, from shippers and carriers on down to drivers themselves – for the risks of not doing so are too great to bear.

“Due to the inherent hazards associated with [truck] driving, fleet owners and managers need to conduct adequate due diligence before placing any employee in a position that requires driving,” noted Hayley Hitchcock, director-vertical strategy for LexisNexis. “Failure to do so could expose the company to substantial fines, damage to their reputation and brand, and potential litigation.”

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