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Bills to OK drug tests from driver hair samples introduced in both houses of Congress

The bills direct the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to recognize hair testing as an optional method to comply with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) drug testing requirements for commercial truck drivers.

The Trucker News Services

11/1/2013

WASHINGTON —  The entire Arkansas delegation along with a Wisconsin lawmaker have introduced hair testing bills in the House and Senate that the sponsors say would enable trucking companies to  more effectively prevent lifestyle drug users from gaining employment as commercial truck drivers.

Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Ark., introduced the bill in the House.

Sen. Mark Pryor, D.-Ark., introduced the Senate version.

Reps. Tim Griffin, Tom Cotton and Steve Womack, all Republicans from Arkansas, and Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Wis., are co-sponsors of the House bill.

Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., is a Senate co-sponsor.

A spokesman at Crawford’s office said Crawford was in the process of lining up other co-sponsors.

The House bill has been referred to the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, of which Crawford is a member.

“We applaud this bipartisan effort that will help keep drug users out of our freight trucks and off our nation’s highways,” said Lane Kidd, senior manager of the Washington-based Alliance for Driver Safety and Security (also known as The Trucking Alliance) and president of the Arkansas Trucking Association Inc.

The bills direct the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to recognize hair testing as an optional method to comply with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) drug testing requirements for commercial truck drivers.

Under current federal regulations, only a urinalysis is recognized by the HHS for mandatory pre-employment drug and alcohol exams of truck driver applicants.

However, the number of truck driver applicants who pass a pre-employment urine test, but fail a subsequent hair test is alarmingly high, Kidd said.

For that reason, many trucking companies have turned to hair testing, which is more expensive, but is more effective in identifying drug users who apply for jobs as truck drivers, he said.

“Passing this much needed legislation will give trucking companies the option of conducting either a urinalysis or a hair test or both methods and will also allow positive hair tests to be reported to the soon-to-be-created national drug and alcohol clearinghouse that Congress adopted last year,” said Gary Salisbury, a member of the Trucking Alliance board of directors, current chairman of the Arkansas Trucking Association and past chair of the Truckload Carriers Association.

Congress mandated the creation of a drug and alcohol clearinghouse last year and the DOT is expected to have the clearinghouse operational by next year. The database will identify any person who has previously tested positive on a pre-employment drug exam required by the federal government before being employed as a truck driver.

However, unless HHS recognizes hair testing as an approved methodology, no positive hair test results can be submitted to the national clearinghouse database. The legislation will enable those drug test results to be reported to the clearinghouse.

“As a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I take the safety of our roads and highways very seriously,” Crawford said. “My bill establishes hair testing guidelines that will help trucking companies identify drug-abusing drivers. More importantly, this bill will allow trucking companies to submit positive hair test results to the national drug and alcohol database to ensure that we keep drug offenders out from behind the wheel of commercial trucks and off our nation’s roads. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the committee to give this bill a speedy hearing and send it to the floor for consideration as soon as possible.”

“With millions of private-sector jobs and businesses relying on the trucking industry, I’m working every day to find new ideas to strengthen this economic powerhouse,” Pryor said. “By allowing companies to eliminate duplicative processes, this bill will ensure our businesses have the certainty they need to invest, expand, and create jobs while securing the safety of our highways for all motorists.”

"ATA has been a long-time vocal supporter of strengthening the drug and alcohol testing procedures in our industry,” said Arkansas Trucking Associations President and CEO Bill Graves.

“The association was an early advocate of the original drug and alcohol testing requirements over two decades ago and has subsequently called for the creation of a clearinghouse of positive drug and alcohol test results which will help fleets hire only safe, responsible drivers,” he said.


“Allowing fleets to use hair testing, which research and experience shows can be much more effective than the current, conventional sampling and testing methods at identifying lifestyle drug users, is the next logical step in this process.  Accordingly, we're grateful to see Congress once again raise the issue."

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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