Six major carriers have asked the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for an exemption waiver which would allow them to use hair follicle testing instead of urine testing for pre-employment drug screenings.
The carriers, all members of the Trucking Alliance, are J.B. Hunt, Schneider, Werner, Knight, Dupree Logistics and Maverick Transportation. They are not the first carriers to ask the FMCSA for an exemption, and this is not the first mention of it from the Trucking Alliance. In fact, the carrier advocacy group lists driver drug testing protocol reform as one of its chief objectives.
Carriers are currently allowed to require hair testing of their drivers, but only urine testing counts as a valid drug test for FMCSA pre-employment screening purposes. The Trucking Alliance argues that requiring urine testing even when hair testing is also being performed is expensive and unnecessary.
The carriers also argue that hair testing is a more accurate form of drug testing than urine samples since urine samples reveal drug use within the last 2-3 days, while hair testing can reveal drug use within the last 60-90 days.
Some who oppose using hair testing claim that false positives are not unheard of, with some people who were merely around certain drugs testing positive for having used them.
But those who are fighting for hair testing say that it is a matter of life and death.
“While we wait on HHS and FMCSA, we can possibly save lives with this exemption by keeping many hard drug users out of our trucks and off our highways.” said the managing director of The Trucking Alliance, Lane Kidd.
Testing using hair follicles does seem to be the direction things are moving in. The 2015 FAST Act even directs the FMCSA to accept hair tests, but only once the Department of Health and Human Services has established federal guidelines. The Department was supposed to have completed those guidelines by December 5th, 2016, but so far they have not been produced.
It is stated in the application that all of the carriers applying for the exemption “already use hair analysis as a method for pre-employment controlled substances testing of drivers on a voluntary basis.” The application only serves to save the carriers the cost of conducting a urine test at the same time.