Monday, April 21, 2008

Oregon continues smear campaign

There’s really nothing else you can call Operation Trucker Check conducted by the Oregon Department of Transportation. It’s a smear campaign.

Results aren’t in from the 72-hour enforcement blitz that ran from April 15-17 are out, but guess what – they’re still touting drug tests from the last one where basically 10 percent of all truckers are doped up, driving bad equipment with no sleep.

Enforcement blitzes happen all the time, and the results are seldom what we’d like to see in terms of overall compliance with the regs. But generally the percentages of violations are far lower than what we see out of Oregon.

One has to wonder why that is.

Take the final results from Operation Trucker Check XIII this past fall. In that enforcement blitz, 468 commercial drivers provided voluntary urine samples. Tests found 8.7 percent tested positive for “at least one drug.”

There are so many things wrong with that statement; I don’t even really know where to begin.

There were 468 truckers who provided “voluntary” urine samples. It doesn’t take anyone with much common sense to question just how voluntarily those samples were given. How nicely were truckers asked to give up the sample? I’d bet those using illegal drugs were less than eager in volunteering their tainted samples. Yet for some reason they gave it up.

Here’s another thing, I made a big distinction there – I mentioned the use of illegal drugs. Oregon DOT doesn’t make that distinction. “Tests found 8.7 percent tested positive for at least one drug.” There’s no “illegal” in that sentence. That means over-the-counter drugs were counted in the “positive” results.

After the final results of Operation Trucker Check XIII came out, I put a call into the Oregon DOT. These tests were not conducted using DOT-mandated procedures. There were no split-samples. There were no concentration cutoff levels to help weed out false positives, so even minute amounts of legal over-the-counter drugs were counted in the test results. And there was no follow-up to ensure the initial test results were accurate.

I really want to know why the Oregon DOT feels compelled to conduct these roadside tests. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration already reported a well-documented 2 percent of truckers are busted using illegal drugs.

If Oregon thinks that 2 percent is low or inaccurate, step up to the plate and conduct the testing up to federal standards.

I don’t think anyone would disagree that if you use illegal drugs you don’t belong behind the wheel of truck.

But, for crying out loud, what the Oregon DOT is doing is asinine. They are hurting the reputation of the professional truckers on the road. They are using their stature as a law enforcement agency to vouch for the validity of their less-than-credible testing.

As suspected, their test results are being touted by the safety groups. Truckers are, once again, the reckless children who run with scissors and have no regard for public safety. If given enough time and traction, these bogus results are only going to hurt the honest men and women in the industry.

Safety groups are going to demand more testing. More of your time off the road proving, once again, you’re clean.

I got it: Let’s test all of the cops in Oregon. Maybe once those test results show that nearly 10 percent of all cops use, they’ll understand how ridiculous testing is just another cog in the anti-trucker smear campaign.

Editor's note: The original post of this blog neglected to point out that the Oregon State Police also participated in Operation Trucker Check along with the Oregon DOT commercial vehicle enforcement.