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Driver issuesNewsRegulation

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.

83 Comments

  1. Jeez lueez. What a bunch of knuckle heads. The problem is not the drug testing nor how it is done. Wake the hell up. it is WHY are they drug testing? Simple. Because far to many of the new breed of driver today is a drug user.

  2. The last I heard,hair sampling goes back ten years.I don’t think someone should be disqualified for something they did Ten years ago.If they pass the urinalysis they should have a shot @ the job.period

    1. If you are weak enough mentally to do drugs you need to go to the DMV. turn in your CDL. When asked why ? You tell them your too stupid to have it. Hair drug testing is like the rings on a tree to tell its age and its history. They can tell when drugs were used in your hair. It is a thing called trust. use drugs once there is a good chance you will again and the companies don’t want to take a chance on that.

  3. Testing (whether it’s hair, blood and/or urine) only shows the PAST. It’s the PRESENT that matters. If a driver it not impaired while operating a CMV that’s all that’s relevant. COGNITIVE TESTING is the only truly fair option. Too bad we’re relying on a system 100 percent based on discrimination instead of actual public safety.

  4. Drug testing is just part of the process of going to work for a company. It is not just trucking that requires a drug test. Many business’s require it. the mistake a driver makes under the influence of drugs can be far costlier in money and lives than someone sitting at a desk under the influence of drugs . Therefore more stringent testing is required. Don’t use opioids or any other drugs then nothing to worry about. It’s part of trucking. Accept it or don’t apply for a job.

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