Driver issuesNewsTrucking Regulation

Required hair testing in trucking could take years

Long-awaited guidelines on using hair tests to detect drugs in the workplace have been sent to the White House but a federal requirement for truck drivers will likely take years, according to a trucking policy expert.

“Scientific and technical guidelines for the inclusion of hair specimens” to detect illegal drugs, along with standards for certifying laboratories in federal agency drug testing, was sent by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), an agency within the executive branch, on June 11.

Because the guidelines are more than two years overdue – Congress had directed the guidelines be issued in December 2016 – their arrival at OMB is significant.

“This has been a long time in coming, and it represents seriousness on the part of HHS to move these forward,” David Osiecki, President and CEO of Scopelitis Transportation Consulting, told FreightWaves. “But it’s just a step, not the final rule.”

Osiecki pointed out that once the OMB approval process is completed – which itself could take 90 days or more – two federal agencies would have to go through a rulemaking process before hair testing for drugs is required for commercial drivers: one from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy and Compliance (ODAPC), and one from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

ODAPC advises the DOT secretary and publishes regulations on drug and alcohol testing among the federally regulated transportation modes. Each modal agency then must adopt testing procedures based on those regulations, Osiecki explained.

“So we’re actually years away from hair testing in the commercial trucking sector due to the steps that still have to be taken,” he said.

That’s either good or bad, depending on where you sit. At a Congressional hearing on June 12, American Trucking Associations (ATA) President and CEO Chris Spear testified that hair tests for drug use are more difficult to subvert.

“However, since urine is the only sample type permitted under DOT regulations, companies that voluntarily conduct hair tests must do so in addition to mandatory urine tests. This duplicated time and expense deters fleets from adopting this more effective testing method,” Spear said.

The ATA’s support for mandatory hair testing was bolstered by drug-test survey data released by the Trucking Alliance that found over 300,000 drivers currently on the road would fail or refuse a hair analysis.

Small business truckers represented by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), however, have so far opposed requiring hair testing in federal drug and alcohol test procedures.

“We have concerns about hair testing, such as biases toward hair color and texture, and the lack of any evidence of a connection between hair testing and crash reduction,” OOIDA told FreightWaves in a statement.

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John Gallagher, Washington Correspondent

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.


  1. So pot-heads are still really that despised? Seems like a notion more apt for an old fogie. You’d be surprised how many intelligent, responsible people use cannabis. Many of you probably have worked with them and you didn’t even know it. Because of the hate projected upon them, they would rather keep it on the hush.

    Besides, all drug tests are essentially designed to “weed out” the pot users. It’s pretty much the only drug that you can piss hot for even though you smoked it weeks ago.

    Wanna sandblast some Cocaine off some hookers rump on a Friday night? Cool. You’ll most likely pass on Monday.

    Wanna get zooted on a little methamphetamine two days before a long haul? Ok

    Oh, and there’s the king of all drugs…. alcohol. I don’t need to say anything else about that.

    Like a few already mentioned, you can find ways to beat these tests. But the hair follicle test is ineffective at catching people when they’re “dirty”. All it does is open you up to scrutiny for something you might have done as a one-off thing months ago.

    There are tests they can administer that will detect the concentration of metabolites in one’s system to determine if one is stoned at the time of operating. USADA already uses this method with their athletes. A threshold is set and if users test over that limit, it will be determined by the nanogram per milliliter, thus signifying whether the individual was high when he/she was OFF DUTY enjoying their time on the Earth as a sovereign being, and not behind the wheel….high as a kite.

    Times are changing. Get with it or get rolled over.

  2. Instead of attacking drivers, and trying to take money out of our pockets, go after the 4 wheels and there cell phone use…I like to call the cop with license plate number for them to pull them over..Now there’s some money to be had…Alot of these accidents are the 4wheelers…ride with a cross hanging off there mirror. Alot of this stuff with drivers come from the new generation, of steering wheel holders.I started in would never see a driver pull into a spot or park on the side of the fuel island where no one else could get out.backing up is horrendous they can’t even do that…
    I have seen where they won’t do this or that. So consequently, the companies have had to change the was things where done, ie 34/hr
    restart. Because these babies couldn’t do the job..Now everyone is in the drivers pocket..,So have more testing the companies have pay for that and where does the monies come from? Yep..the driver..Well when they don’t get there Golen toilet paper to wipe, there Golden…..
    Then maybe will see some respect for the driver.. Divers used to be respected…now it become cheap labor with all the laws.that they don’t even enforce…go. figure..The New Generation of Trucking

  3. Honestly, it’s like talking to a wall…fellas..we need to get PERSONAL PROTECTION ORDERs against alot of these COLORFUL FIGURES..

  4. Hey Rich you know that they give psychological test now to be carful big brother is watching bet you take blood pressure medication that’s a drug that can put your lights out . Did me had to sit out for about 2 weeks worse than booze or weed just be standing there and Bam out go the lights.

  5. So what’s going to stop them from doing a genetic profile after the drug test. It not about the drug testing. They want another place to pull profile’s. The government been wanting to do this over every American citizen for years. This is just another step to get this. It’s already been said it’s unconstitutional. But since we really don’t have any help in Congress they will do as they please. To bad some of that 300 thousand that won’t take the test isn’t because of they won’t pass it because we will not have are rights stripped away…