Mandated in the FAST Act highway bill was a measure which would allow carriers to screen drivers for illegal drug use with hair testing instead of urine testing. A rule on the subject is somewhere down the road, but one trucking group says it isn’t coming fast enough and has submitted a petition to allow their members to use hair testing for pre-employment drug screening immediately.
Hair testing is thought to be a much more accurate indicator of prior drug use since urine tests reveal drug use within the last 2-3 days, while hair testing can reveal prior drug use within the last 60-90 days.
Before a rule allowing hair tests to be used to fulfil the mandatory screenings can be published, the Department of Health and Human Services will need to create guidelines for hair sample testing. Once the guidelines are created, the FMCSA will need to evaluate them, create a rule, publish the rule, and then wait for the rule to go into effect.
But that may be too late.
According to The Trucking Alliance, a trucking group with represents carriers like Knight Transportation and J.B. Hunt, not having the awaited rule in place right now is dangerous.
“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.
But despite the claims from The Trucking Alliance about the urgent need to act now, there’s nothing stopping them from doing just that. It is already perfectly legal for carriers to test their drivers using hair samples, and many carriers do just that. In fact, between March of 2008 and June of 2012, Schneider National performed both urine and hair sample tests on prospective drivers. 1,400 applicants were disqualified by hair sample testing while only 120 were disqualified by urine sample testing.
The only reason not to do both is that then a carrier would have to pay for both. The rule that The Trucking Alliance is so impatient for would allow the hair test to satisfy the federal requirement, eliminating the need for a urine test.
Depending on where the carriers get their testing done, the cost savings would be around $70.