Mandatory hair testing is one step closer, feds confirm

Drug Test

A proposal that would require the use of hair samples in truck driver drug testing is on the verge of being published in the Federal Register, according to federal authorities.

The Drug Testing Advisory Board (DTAB) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has submitted a hair testing proposal to the Federal Register for publication, the agency confirmed at a September 1 meeting.

“It has been a pretty lengthy review process, but I think we are at a point now where it is at the Federal Register, hopefully with publication dates being set,” said DTAB chairman Ron Flegel during the meeting. “I’m hoping within a relatively short period of time, the public will be able to … comment on the proposed mandatory guidelines.”

The proposal seeks to sample hair rather than urine for drug testing for truck drivers.

Hair testing is believed to have a much longer detection period — up to 90 days for certain narcotics, versus 2 to 3 days for urine tests — and hair tests are cheaper to administer.

The news of the forward progress of the hair testing proposal comes just months after an explosive study from the Trucking Alliance claimed that if the FMCSA mandated hair testing, 275,000 truck drivers would be out of a job.

Trucking trade group OOIDA opposes hair testing. OOIDA says that urine is more likely to catch recent drug use because it can take 4 to 10 days for the hair to grow out far enough from the scalp for drugs to be detected.

OOIDA also cites inconsistencies in the results for hair testing based on race: “According to the American Civil Liberties Union, dark hair is more likely to test positive for a drug, and, additionally, African-Americans are more likely to test positive than Caucasians.”

For years, the Trucking Alliance, an industry organization comprised of some of the largest trucking companies like Knight-Swift Transportation, J.B. Hunt, Maverick Transporation, U.S. Express, and others, has been a strong advocate of hair follicle testing.

The American Trucking Associations also supports the stricter hair follicle testing.