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    Safety is paramount in the commercial trucking industry – an industry that hauls nearly three fourths of all freight in the US.  That means if you are consuming – well, most anything – it’s because a commercial truck driver transported it safely to your point of purchase or to your front door.  Misuse of any psychoactive drug can reduce professional drivers’ competency, endangering the public.  It can greatly increase the risk of accidents in an industry that already encounters 500,000 accidents per year involving 5,000 fatalities and thousands more injuries.

    Drug testing in trucking

    Many trucking carriers already require the mandatory use of hair follicle testing, with its increased sensitivity, in addition to other methods of pre-employment and random drug screening of current drivers.  Regulators are moving closer to this practice becoming an industry-wide mandate. This is because common urinalysis screening may miss illicit drug users.  One alarming study from the University of Central Arkansas estimated that 300,000 drivers would lose their jobs if hair follicle testing becomes the industry norm.

    “300,000 drivers would lose their jobs if hair follicle testing becomes the industry norm.”

    This in an industry with astronomical turnover rates and a mounting shortage of safe drivers just as our economy is poised to rebound from the coronavirus pandemic.  But this blog is not about the enormous recruitment and retention problem in trucking. It’s about a driver-centric way to assist people with emerging substance misuse issues.

    Alcohol Awareness Month

    April happens to be a national awareness month concerning the most commonly used mood-altering substance in North America – alcohol.  That’s right, alcohol is a drug. In a larger sense, the national awareness month recognition calls attention to overall psychoactive drug misuse, such as is found in all industries and is made more acute in transportation given the risks of deadly accidents to the traveling public and to subsequent litigation aimed at carriers.

    At Espyr we have found that traditional assistance programs that are meant to help employees access treatment aren’t effective for mobile, safety sensitive industries like transportation and logistics.  That’s why we have developed services that recognize the challenges of carriers and drivers and give 24/7/365 access to behavioral health professionals – by phone, text, or chat.  That innovative service is called TalkNow.  TalkNow is often connected to health coaching services to create a holistic approach to wellbeing. One aspect of TalkNow is a service tract aimed at assisting substance abusers early on – before their misuse endangers themselves or others.  That service is called Recovery Assist.  It’s a service that intervenes at times in a substance misuser’s life that research shows are moments ripe for change.

    Recovery Assist

    Recovery Assist provides immediate access to behavioral health professionals specially trained to assess the nature and extent of the alcohol or drug issue using various objective screening tools.  The Recovery Assist counselors also assess for safety, given life-threatening withdrawal may require immediate medical intervention.

    Recovery Assist counselors use a technique called motivational interviewing to identify, increase and support the drinker or drug user’s motivation for change. Importantly, the behavioral health professional then transitions into the role of advocate.

    Helping clients find the right care

    Advocates help clients get into the specialized treatment that is effective for substance misuse conditions.  Advocacy is very important because, from the driver’s perspective, there are often multiple social and logistical obstacles to getting into treatment.  If there are delays, motivation can evaporate, and the client returns to drugging. An opportunity for healthy change is lost. To address this our Recovery Assist professional educates the client about treatment and the psychological and personal dynamics around asking for help.   Counselors help the client to find accessible, convenient and economical treatment resources that offer multiple levels of care and individualized treatment plans.  Then they expedite the client getting a screening appointment and admission to the appropriate level of care for their unique needs.

    Espyr’s Recovery Assist service is grounded in a psychological theory called the transtheoretical change model.  This model of human behavior has been used to identify when people are ready to act.  Recovery Assist helps create and capitalize on the readiness for change and assist clients in getting screened and admitted to treatment before their motivation wanes.

    April is a great time for carriers and fleets to create more awareness among drivers and their families about alcohol and drug misuse and examine how their assistance programs offer avenues to recovery.

    About the Author

    Norman Winegar, LCSW, CEAP, NCAC II is the Chief Clinical Officer at Espyr For over 30 years, Norman has practiced in mental health, substance misuse, and EAP settings. He has also worked in leadership positions in both public and private sector behavioral health organizations. An author of four books, he is frequently called on for presentations and as a panelist to share his expertise and experience as a mental health professional.

    About Espyr

    For over 30 years Espyr, has provided innovative mental health solutions – solutions like our AI powered chatbot, TESS – to organizations operating under some of the most challenging conditions. Espyr’s portfolio of customized counseling, coaching and consulting solutions help people and organizations achieve their full potential by providing mental health support and driving positive behavioral change. For more information on how Espyr can help your organization, call Espyr at 888-570-3479 or click here.


    300,000 truck drivers would likely refuse or fail stringent drug tests

    Hal Mattern

    Bus & Motor Coach News,or%20refused%20the%20hair%20test.


    2019 National Survey of Drug Use and Health

    U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration


    Binge Drinking

    U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


    The Transtheoretical Model of Change

    Prochaska, J., Johnson, S. and Lee, P.

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