Proposed Bill Requires Pilot Program For Drug Testing on Hair

DOT Pilot Program Would Require Hair Drug Testing

DOT Pilot Program Would Require Hair Drug Testing We recently wrote an article about carriers campaigning for hair testing for drugs.  Schneider, JB Hunt, Roche Transport and a few others have added the extra test to help weed out possible drug abusers.

Rep. Reid Ribble (R-Wisc.) recently introduced a bill that would require the U.S. Department of Transportation to create a pilot program to evaluate the use of hair testing for drugs.  

“The American Trucking Associations, the industry’s principal lobbying group, also wants hair testing in the database. But Abigail Potter, a research analyst with the organization, said that probably won’t happen without further Congressional action,” The Journal Sentinel reported. ”The trucking industry recently won a related victory in Congress, which ordered the Transportation Department to establish a national database of drivers’ positive results on drug and alcohol tests. The database is to be up and running within two years, and motor carriers have to tap into it when they screen driver applicants.”

Why isn’t a urine analysis satisfactory with these companies when it’s the only drug test mandated by the DOT? The answer is two-fold: drug abusers statistically have a higher accident rate and are therefore a larger liability and many drug abusers know how to pass urine analysis.  Many simply abstain from drug use days to weeks prior to drug testing and others use more creative ways to pass the test.

Hair sampling can detect drug use that occurred months prior to the drug testing.  Molecules of methamphetamine and other drugs remain in the urine for days but stay firmly implanted in the hair for months.

“It’s a deterrent,” said John Spiros, vice president of safety and claims management at Roehl, which began testing hair a year ago. “When people know that you’re doing hair-follicle testing, a lot of them won’t even apply.”

While hair testing is harder to cheat, it can also give a false positive result if the testee has been exposed to second-hand smoke from being in an enclosed space with a drug smoker.

Currently, companies who routinely use hair testing cannot share drug testing results with other trucking companies because hair testing is not the mandated form of drug testing; however, the companies that do require hair testing and the DOT are pushing to to have hair testing recognized as an official drug testing method for all in the trucking industry.

Yesterday, the American Trucking Association released this press release:

Arlington, Va. – Today, American Trucking Associations applauded Rep. Reid Ribble (R-Wisc.) for his introduction of a bill requiring the U.S. Department of Transportation to conduct a pilot program to evaluate the use of hair samples to test commercial drivers for illicit drug use.

“For many years, ATA has supported improving drug and alcohol testing procedures for commercial drivers,” ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said. “From advocating for the first drug and alcohol test standards, to pushing for the creation of a clearinghouse of drug and alcohol test results, to ensure fleets are hiring only safe, clean drivers, ATA has been at the front of the process improvement line.”

“Hair testing, which research and experience shows can be much more effective than current, conventional sampling and testing methods, is the next logical step in this process and we thank Congressman Ribble for introducing this important legislation. ATA also thanks Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.) for signing on as an original cosponsor.”

No fleet wants to put the safety of the public at risk by putting an impaired driver behind the wheel of one of its trucks,” said ATA Chairman Mike Card, president of Combined Transport, Central Point, Ore. “More effective drug testing procedures can help us make sure that doesn’t happen. ATA invites the U.S. Department of Transportation to join it in supporting this approach to improving the regulated testing program.”