US Truck Drivers Are Now Subject To Hair Drug Testing

The new law has legislated in both Houses of Congress with near-unanimous bipartisan approval. The legislation enacted after DHS was slow to offer hair testing protocols for 3 years since the 2015 FAST Act, which enabled the FMCSA to start receiving hair sample drug tests for truck drivers.

The Department of Homeland Security must give guidelines for the method those evaluations should be executed, in addition to why they’ve been postponed, and then create a schedule for when it intends to finish them. The DOT is then to go after.

The Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018, the bill, guides the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to communicate to Congress on its progress in building and issuing process for hair testing. The hair testing for illegal substance use has been long investigated by trucking companies. President Trump signed the bill in October of 2018.

Hair Drug Testing

Hair follicle testing may detect traces of prohibited substances as far back as 90 days from the intake, in contrast to 2-3 times with urine samples. The new legislation is a massive step toward hair follicle testing for motorists, and lots of carriers consider they could have a catastrophic effect on the driver market.

Lane Kidd, Managing Director of The Trucking Alliance, says “FreightWaves- the 688-page law makes only two references to hair testing. One paragraph directs the HHS Secretary to report back to the Senate Commerce Committee within 60 days, on the agency’s progress in completing its hair test guidelines. My understanding is the guidelines are completed and HHS will soon submit the guidelines to the Administration at OMB for review, likely before the 60-day report is due.”

Kidd says “Second, the law directs HHS in writing its guidelines to make certain that a person who might be exposed to drugs in his/her hair doesn’t register a false positive. All labs wash hair before testing so that’s easily achieved.”

What Does USDOT Need To Do?

“Nothing, however, requires the USDOT to begin a rulemaking that will recognize a hair test in lieu of a urine exam. The FAST Act only directs HHS to write guidelines that the USDOT can use, should it proceed to officially recognize hair testing.”

“The Trucking Alliance will actively encourage DOT to proceed with one as soon as possible, however. Because our data show that a urine exam is missing as many as 90% of all opioid and illegal drug abusers who are applying for work as a truck driver. That’s a danger to the public and a risk to motor carriers. The trucking industry has an opioid crisis and we must reform the system to make sure that opioid abusers are not operating large trucks on the nation’s highways.”

Kidd concludes “Skeptics who point to low positives on post-accident tests overlook that drivers are only tested for alcohol at the scene and by the time they get around to showing up for a urine exam, the drugs are out of their system.”

A 2017 study by the Governors Highway Safety Association discovered the 22 percent of drivers tested positive for some drug or medication throughout the board. A Morgan Stanley report also shows that by 2020 driver drug testing data is proposed to be kept in a centralized database to facilitate record sharing between carriers, meaning that one test failure could maintain a driver from the marketplace for all carriers.

man's hair sample for drug testing

Federal law directs trucking companies to drug test new drivers and randomly examines existing drivers, but just urinalysis is recognized by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration as a known drug testing technique. Carriers looking to hair-test drivers should still conduct urine analysis also. Enthusiasts of hair testing claim that it has benefits, including a longer detection window, more straightforward collection, and results which are more difficult to fake.

Reporting requirements are also covered in the legislation about the evolution of the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse and a final date for finishing work on oral fluids analysis.

The American Trucking Associations said in a statement that it has “long advocated for, and worked closely with Senate Commerce Committee staff” to secure the hair-testing provisions in the legislation.

“Our fleets need to depend on the most accurate, reliable and failsafe drug testing methods available today, and this legislation pushes the federal government to recognize those means of testing,” said Bill Sullivan, ATA’s executive vice president of advocacy. “We thank our champions in Congress—Senators Thune and Fischer and Representatives Crawford and Fleischmann—who have played a pivotal role in advancing this important safety issue.”

ATA recorded that the FAST Act highway bill of 2015 had asked the Department of Health and Human Services to issue technical and scientific guidelines for hair testing by December 2016, a deadline that was missed.

hair follicle drug test sample

Things New Truck Drivers Should Know Which Companies Do Hair Follicle Testing

  • Presently, hair follicle drug testing can’t be practiced by trucking companies to meet Federal DOT drug testing conditions, but may be used privately as a requirement of employment. Results can’t be communicated to the DOT as an unsuccessful test, and also not to be given to other organizations.
  • Detection Time: Hair follicle testing may detect traces of prohibited drugs from last 90 days (having a standard 1 1/2-inch hair sample) from their use or intake, that’s the standard length a lot of companies will follow.
  • Utilization of hair from elsewhere on the body usually is acceptable if the hair on the head is too small or non-existent.
  • A driver who doesn’t have enough hair on their body to be analyzed may be categorized as a “denial” and refused employment by a specific company.
  • Companies which use hair follicle testing will yet need urinalysis (UA), also, as baldness drug testing isn’t however permitted to be utilized by carriers as an alternate for UA testing to meet Federal requirements, and pre-employment screening is required by the FMCSA.
  • Information on trucking companies that are conducting hair follicle drug testing is updated regularly, according to report as we get it.

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