Delayed packages, bare grocery store shelves, and inflated prices have become the norm for American consumers over the past two years. While the COVID-19 pandemic has been the catalyst, there are other challenges causing supply chain issues, including a lack of truck drivers to transport goods from one place to another. In late 2021, the American Trucking Associations reported that the driver shortage had risen to an all-time high of 80,000, partly due to the aging population and shrinking wages.
In response, the Biden administration vowed in December to get more truck drivers on the road by boosting recruitment efforts and expediting the issuing of commercial licenses. However, that won’t have an effect on another hurdle: disparate marijuana laws across the U.S. that are contributing to an increase in violations. In 2022, a growing number of truckers are being taken off the job, which could soon worsen the already suffering supply chain.
As more states legalize recreational marijuana—four of which did so in the past year and three more are expected to by the end of 2022—more truck drivers have tested positive for the substance. As of April 1, 2022, 10,276 commercial vehicle drivers have tested positive for marijuana use. By the same time in 2021, there had been 7,750 violations. That’s a 32.6% increase year over year.
Truck drivers who travel cross-country face inconsistent state regulations as 19 states have legalized recreational marijuana and 37 states permit it for medicinal purposes. But even if a driver used marijuana or hemp-based products like CBD while off duty in a state where those substances are legal, they could still be faced with a violation due to the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) zero-tolerance policy at the federal level.
“While states may allow medical use of marijuana, federal laws and policy do not recognize any legitimate medical use of marijuana,” a DOT handbook for commercial vehicle drivers reads. “Even if a state allows the use of marijuana, DOT regulations treat its use as the same as the use of any other illicit drug.”
Stacker looked at what’s causing thousands of truckers to be removed from their jobs, and the looming domino effect of the continued supply chain disruptions.