A new study released by University of Central Arkansas (UCA) in Conway reports that if the FMCSA mandates hair follicle testing, nearly 300,000 truck drivers would be out of a job.
The study, conducted by UCA Professors Doug Voss and Joe Cangelosi, was paid for by the Trucking Alliance.
“To ensure the safety of our roadways, the U.S. government requires all drivers to pass urinalysis drug screens. However, urinalysis drug screens are easily thwarted and some trucking companies use hair drug screens, a more stringent test. This research examines trucking industry data and finds about 300,000 truck drivers would be removed from their positions if forced to pass a hair drug test. Hair testing opponents argue that the test is biased against ethnic minority groups. Comparing urine and hair pass/fail rates for various ethnic groups, our results indicate ethnic groups are significantly different irrespective of testing procedure. Factors other than testing method seem to underlie ethnic group pass/fail rate differences,” the study states.
The study found that existing urine testing is not as reliable as it should be and “is often invalid.” The study points to an unannounced drug screening in Utah.
According to the study, in 1998, Oregon enforcement officers conducted unannounced drug tests on truck drivers at the ports of entry. “The unannounced nature of these tests negated drivers ability to prepare for the test. In total, enforcement personnel collected 822 urine specimens from commercial truck drivers and found 21% of the samples tested positive for one or more substances including stimulants, cannabinoids, and alcohol,” the study sates.
The Trucking Alliance recently conducted its own study. The study compared pass/fail rates for urine and hair drug screens. Using 151,662 paired pre-employement urine and hair drug tests from 15 carriers who conduct both tests, the Alliance found that 949 (0.6%) applicants failed the urine test, while 12,842 (8.5%) failed the hair test.
The Alliance applied their results to the population of the 3.5 million CDL holders in the us. Given a fail rate of 8.5%, this means that nearly 300,000 truck drivers would fail a hair test.
The Alliance asked UCA to verify their theory.
UCA researchers found that the Trucking Alliance’s study was accurate. If the FMCSA mandated hair testing, 275,000 truck drivers would be out of a job.
The study concluded, “No trucking industry safety manager wants to get the call that their driver has been involved in a reportable safety event. Hair testing is a powerful tool that can help prevent safety incidents or lessen potential liability when they occur. Managers should ask themselves, “How many of our drivers could be included in the 275,000 who would be unable to drive if forced to pass a more stringent drug test?” While this question presupposes that these 275,000, left on the road, would lead to a number of additional deaths, this is a first order impact that, while accurate, may not tell the whole story. There is also a 2nd order impact. The trucking industry has to replace these 275,000 drivers with more qualified, sober employees if it wishes to improve roadway safety. Additional research is needed to better understand the impact of taking these 275,000 drivers off the road and how the trucking industry can improve driver recruitment and retention.”