Millions of truck drivers subject to the Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration drug and alcohol testing regulations may be subject to hair testing for alleged drugs in addition to the urine testing currently authorized under the FMCSA rules, if recently proposed federal legislation is enacted. Relying on the results obtained by Arkansas-based J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc., which has been using hair testing in its drug screening procedures for over seven years, Rep. Rick Crawford (R.-AR.) and Senator Mark Pryor (D.-AR.) and others, introduced bills in both houses, entitled the ‘Drug Free Commercial Driver Act of 2013” (S. 1625; H.R. 3403) : (Senate Bill 1625) to allow motor carriers to conduct hair testing for drugs, as an alternative to urine testing, for certain DOT-required drug tests.
J.B. Hunt reported that by using hair testing for pre-employment drug tests the company had rejected more than 3200 prospective drivers between May 2006 and February 2013. Meanwhile, only 90 applicants failed urine tests required by federal regulations, the company said. J.B. Hunt reportedly regards hair testing as superior to urine testing for pre-employment purposes. The bills would permit, but not require, truckers to use hair tests for pre-employment and random drug testing of drivers, instead of urine tests.
Hair testing can detect drugs used within the past 90 days, while urinalysis testing has a much shorter look-back period. (Hair testing, however, may not detect very recent use. Accordingly, while it may be suitable for pre-employment and random testing, it generally is avoided for reasonable suspicion or post-accident drug testing.)
“This is all about trying to create a safe environment in the industry,” Rep. Crawford explained, as reported by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on October 31, since it helps identify “chronic drug users instead of relying on a two or three day snapshot.” Sen. Prior added that “right now, our companies are saddled with duplicate drug-testing procedures that are wasting time and money,” referring to DOT’s refusal to accept any drug testing other than urinalysis under its testing regulations for transportation employees.
Various industry groups, including the American Trucking Association, reportedly have voiced support for hair testing, although the owner-operator Independent Driver Association opposes the method, claiming it is too costly, discriminates against certain ethnicities, and is not relevant to random testing.
The bills were referred to the committee responsible for transportation in each chamber.