TCA and our truckload carrier members remain committed to hair testing as a viable method for determining long-term drug use by individuals in safety-sensitive functions. To us, this position is a “no-brainer.” Trucking is a zero-tolerance industry, and as such, trucking companies should be permitted to use every possible method for eliminating those who use drugs or alcohol from the driver pool.
Recently, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) threw the industry a curveball regarding these efforts. The Agency released a Notice of Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing Programs, which proposed a way for hair testing to be recognized as satisfying federal drug testing protocols. On the surface, this move may seem like a step in the right direction, but TCA and our membership were very disappointed in this proposal.
In the event of a positive hair test result with no legitimate medical explanation and no admission of guilt by the individual, an alternative authorized specimen, either urine or oral fluid, must be collected, tested, and reported. In our comments, TCA pointed out that not only is this requirement incredibly cost prohibitive, but it also completely invalidates the unique detection benefits that can be obtained through a hair test. Instead of encouraging adoption of a testing method which could remove nearly 300,000 drug users from our nation’s roadways, HHS has decided to pursue guidelines which would effectively disincentivize trucking companies from utilizing a technique with proven results.
This proposal essentially implies that the results of a hair test cannot be trusted. However, research has shown that this idea is not based in reality. Three major hair testing laboratories have been reviewed by the FDA and have received clearances for their screening assays, and multiple proficiency testing programs exist and demonstrate that hair testing is an accurate and repeatable science. On top of that, a recent study from the University of Central Arkansas found no evidence that a person’s race impacts the bearing of hair test results, disputing claims over racial bias.
If the final guidelines do not make it into the Federal Register by the transition from the Trump Administration to the Biden Administration, they will likely be delayed considerably, if not abandoned completely. Biden’s team has several options for pending regulations: they could rewrite rules before they are published as final, withdraw the proposed version for further consideration, or reopen the proposal for a fresh round of public comments to inform a substantially different version of the final rule. TCA is still working to gauge how the incoming administration would treat the hair testing guidelines, but we do know that with the overwhelming outpouring of opposition, there is little chance the proposal will become final without a serious consideration of changes.
TCA will continue to monitor the status of these proposed guidelines and voice our support for rules which would enable carriers to use hair testing to fulfil their drug testing protocols and enter the results into the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse. We cannot allow the safety of innocent motorists to be threatened by ill-advised government actions such as this, and we will keep fighting to ensure trucking’s zero-tolerance stance is not undermined.