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Truckers frustrated with hair-test guideline delays

Holdup within Trump Administration preventing industry from making headway in keeping drugs abusers out of trucks, according to carriers

Hair-test guidelines awaiting OMB approval. (Photo: Shutterstock).

A five-year delay of a rulemaking that would give trucking companies the option to use a hair test instead of urinalysis to screen drivers for drugs is preventing significant safety improvements, according to major industry players.

The benefits of hair testing within the trucking industry was a common theme among several panel discussions at a truck safety summit held by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) today.

Representatives from truckload operators Werner Enterprises (NASDAQ: WERN), Schneider National (NYSE: SNDR), Knight-Swift (NYSE: KNX), and Maverick Transportation provided quantitative evidence of how hair-testing programs they use alongside mandatory urinalysis is keeping hundreds of habitual drug users from filling seats in their company’s cabs.

But American Trucking Associations (ATA) President Chris Spear contended that rolling out hair testing industry-wide won’t happen until the Trump Administration corrects procedural issues..

Congress in 2015 mandated the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) promulgate guidelines for hair testing. 

“To see it stall for five years at HHS, and now submitted to the [Office of Management and Budget], it’s very clear to me that we have some career people at HHS that are very wedded to urinalysis labs,” Spear said.

“This is about competition in my view. I think having a scientifically proven alternative to urinalysis in the environment that we’re now operating in, with opioids and marijuana, I think it’s timely and absolutely essential for safety on our public highways. We’re going to continue to push hard and if we don’t get the rule we want, we’re going to go back to [Capitol Hill] and will be even clearer if we have to. We’re going to keep pressing until we get it done.”

Recent data compiled by the FMCSA’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse revealed that drivers may be attempting to cheat urinalysis tests for drugs at a relatively high rate, which could lead to a renewed push for motor carrier hair-testing requirements.

After HHS issues a rulemaking allowing hair testing as an option to urinalysis, it would then be up to FMCSA to adopt rules specifically aimed at motor carriers.

Dan Furth, President of the National Tank Truck Carriers said his members would adopt hair testing almost immediately if it became the industry standard. “We want to make sure drivers are in the right physical and mental state to drive. We would be huge adopters of it,” he said.

Thomas DiSalvi, vice president of safety and compliance at Schneider National, said that results more than 100,000 pre-employment applicants found a 4% to 4.5% positive rate using hair testing compared with 0.4% positive rate with urinalysis.

“We’re missing the chronic drug users when we rely only on the urine test,” he said.

“We’ve seen a difference in hair positive rate versus urine which was about 10 times greater” using hair testing, said Jamie Maus, vice president of safety and compliance at Werner Enterprises. “What was more surprising was the types of drugs we were picking up. The number one drug we see is cocaine, then amphetamines, and then opioids – marijuana is not even in the top tier.”

Maus added, “The scary part is, while a driver can be disqualified from driving from Werner Enterprises, they’re able to go to another carrier [that may not use hair testing] because hair testing isn’t recognized under federal regulations. Of the 5,000 positive hair tests in the last couple of years, only a handful of those also tested positive in urine, so only a handful of those would have been reported to the current Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse or to other companies.”

Small-business trucking companies headed by owner operators, however, are concerned hair testing can be biased against people with different hair types, and about positive results from non-habitual users.

“Nobody wants people using drugs on the highway, but unfortunately a drug can last up to six months” in someone’s system, commented Lewie Pugh, vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. “So is the problem six months ago or now? That’s why urine is the better way to go.”

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  1. Glenn

    Know for a fact hair test can go beyond 6 months. Also depends on how long it is.
    Three years sober now. Have never used and driven a big truck.
    They do need to get it right. Don’t support anyone driving while flying.

  2. StevenJ

    Truckers are not frustrated, the ATA management is frustrated. What a misleading horrible headline. Totally false. Drug testing of any kind is an invasion of privacy. The management at the ATA needs to lead by doing hair and urine testing on themselves.

    In a for cause case, I can see it. But a blanket, everyone is subject to it, is misguided, invasive, and abusive. When it started they had to watch us go, from the body part to the cup. At least now they no longer watch, just check the temp. Now they want to cut our hair? What about the bald guys? Some I’m sure will shave their whole body just in defiance. So our bodily fluids are not enough now?

    With hair testing they can also probably dna test for probable medical problems to weed out those that would cost them more on their health insurance. Which is probably why they are pushing so hard for hair testing. Just like with the ELD, so the company can watch drivers and push them. They got ELD’s so they can force the drivers to keep driving instead of taking breaks. We got HOS to prevent that, they got ELD’s to take back control.

    For those of us with our own authority, it will probably triple our consortium costs. ATA should pay for everyone’s drug testing if they want it bad enough, they’ve already spent millions of dollars buying their own politicians.

  3. Seriously

    Mandatory drug testing for all the Executives too! If your in trucking and want all these regulations for drivers, then you alcohol, cocaine and opiate abusing CEO and management teams who don’t hold a CDL or, may hold one but because of a management position within the company have found a way out of the random pool, should be tested as well! We have all seen during this pandemic how the mega trucking companies, brokers and shippers REALLY feel about drivers! Front line hero’s my ass!! Brokers, trucking companies and shippers took advantage of the pandemic and used it as an excuse for cheaper rates and pay cuts! I sold my equipment, shut down my authority and gave a middle finger to all of it! I’ve never had an issue with drug testing and I support it but…..after witnessing the treatment received by the men and women in this industry during this pandemic, you will never see my ass in the seat again! Get your ” Bug out” bag ready and learn how to survive with nothing because ” It’s Coming”. Grow your own food and learn how to live ” Off the Grid”. Drug testing is not as much about safety, in my opinion, as it is the beginning of social control. Just look around…..coin shortage…..contract tracing… the left is constantly trying to push the socialist narrative??? You just watch, if Biden wins…..the pandemic will start to disappear and the socialist ideals of these morons with be forced upon us. What does all this commentary have to do with this editorial? Think about it…..marijuana sales, alcohol sales…were considered ” essential” during this pandemic and still are. Yet, you want to use a test that can go back 3-6 months in someones history? WOW….God forbid someone can’t take the stress of all this stressful BS and just drink a few beers or smoke a joint just for some release! Yeah, yeah, take a walk or work out…I get it….but you couldn’t even do that during the worst of the restrictions! Drugs are not the issue! Incompetent, under trained ” wanna be” trained by someone with 6 months of experience is the problem! These companies constantly put ” New meat ” in the seats of these machines everyday. But……that couldn’t possibly be the problem……

  4. Richard Wainio

    Wow! The wacky left has even infiltrated the trucking websites! Trying to persuade truckers to not vote for Trump by putting g out fake news!

    Not gonna work! Trump 2020🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸

  5. Ralph Everhart

    Actually what do you care what I did 6 months ago? This is politics. Your training programs putting drivers in a truck with 28 days of training is the biggest safety issue of all. A person that smokes a joint on Sunday is not high on Monday! FACT! But a person can get behind the wheel with a hangover and be safe?

    1. John Mott

      Teamster Retired ! I can tell you Hair samples would be a disaster . Urinalysis is the way to go . That’s not the problem It’s you big box trucking companies that are the real problem behind all these accidents. Incompetent trainers you expect too teach these new students the real skills of operating a 80 k Gvw vehicle. In a safe and professional manner . But no you Morons put idiots behind the wheels of your trucks . With little or no real experience operating this machine it’s because all your worried about . Is that your wheels keep moving and you make money . You are not worried about your training of your Drivers? And you find blame anywhere you can because of all your Accidents! You are too blame not drugs keep making excuses!!! We are watching you and all your Lobbyist You POS !!!!!!Teamster Trainer Lead driver . Never a issue to we see yourTrucks . Get your head out of your Ass !!!! And really Train your Drivers you Idiots!!!!!

      1. Gerald M Anderson

        Your story title says Truckers frustrated please correct your story title and put big box trucking and lobbyists frustrated. I don’t think the truckers are upset. And as the previous comments refer to TRAIN YOUR IDIOT DRIVERS PROPERLY!!!

    2. Brian Roeh

      Exactly politics … and big box companies want to be part of the illuminati.
      They want dictatorship all over not only the nation but worldwide .

Comments are closed.

John Gallagher

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.