On Friday morning dispatch called me at home. They had said that they might need me on Friday morning. They gave me the bad news. I needed to do a random drug and alcohol test. No one ever likes getting tested. I had to drive into Green Bay anyway to run errands, but was not thrilled about taking the time to get tested. Home time is precious. None of us truckers likes to waste it. As it turned out, I was in and out in about 30 minutes. The Bellin Occupational Clinic that I went to does a lot of drug screening. They are incredibly proficient at it. It was a far cry from my first drug test back in 1988. Back then they actually followed me and had to watch me fill the cup. That was so not cool.

Drug screening is a part of our jobs. I don't like it, but I figure that it makes the roads safer. The random testing rate has been reduced because very few truckers test positive. Actually less than 1% of truckers fail the drug screen. That is a good thing, not a reason to stop testing. I did get a little curious about when drug testing became part of the industry and if the roads were indeed safer.

Ronald Reagan signed an Executive order putting mandatory testing into effect on September 15, 1986. In 1985, the year before testing there were 5,613 CMV related fatalities. In 2014 we had 3,660 CMV related fatalities. That is a significant decrease. 1,953 fewer deaths is incredible. That is close to a 35% drop.

Then I looked up how many miles were driven in 1985. It was estimated to be 45,441,000,000 miles. We drove an estimated 109,301,000,000 miles in 2014. We drove about 2.4 times as many miles with 35% fewer fatalities. Put that into ratios. In 1985 we about 1 death per 8,095,671 miles driven. That seems pretty good unless you knew the one. In 2014 that ratio was close to 1 in 29,863,661 miles. That makes us about 3.69 times safer in 2014 than we were in 1985.

All this has not happened in a vacuum. Nothing does. We have safer cars and trucks. Seat belt usage has increased. Cars and trucks have safety features such as anti lock brakes, electronic stability control, air bags and collision mitigation systems to name a few. All in all this industry is still 3.69 times safer than we were before drug testing. Next time you're aggravated because you have to take a test. Remember that.

Comments (4)

Jeff Clark

Jeff Clark of Kewaunee, WI has been driving a truck for 24 years. He has been an owner operator for 11 years.

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No problem Stephen- in many ways I believe that the entire industry deserves a pat on the back. It still is a little aggravating.

May 06, 2016 18:13:40 PM

We do not mind getting tested.....have had to do it for work we did before trucking. It seems one of us gets picked for a random every quarter! LOL. Very interesting statics Jeff. Thanks for taking the time to put this article together.

May 05, 2016 7:34:10 AM

You're welcome Jon. To me there are a number of things for truckers to be proud of, including that less that 1% test positive.

May 04, 2016 11:24:06 AM

Thanks Jeff, I didn't know the ratios, but it is eye opening.

May 04, 2016 9:17:48 AM