WASHINGTON — Five senators last Thursday sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Thomas Price requesting swift action in taking steps to what could lead to the use of hair testing for substance abuse.
The letter was signed by John Thune, R-S.D., John Boozman, R-Ark., Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., Deb Fisher, R.-Neb., and Ron Johnson, R-Wis.
Thune is chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation; Fisher and Johnson, are members of the committee and Fisher chairs the subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security.
The letter noted that the Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has been working on guidelines since the early 2000s but has not produced any guidelines even though the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act placed a December 4, 2016, deadline SAMHSA’s work.
Thusly, the Department of Transportation has not been able to move forward with the allowance of hair testing as a federally approved drug testing method.
Both the American Trucking Associations and the Truckload Carriers Association are strong proponents of hair testing.
“Making sure America’s truck drivers are safe and drug-free is among our highest priorities,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear. “The inherent advantages of hair testing are clear, which is why the previous administration’s failure to act – as required by law – was deeply frustrating. That lack of action is having a real impact on the trucking industry.”
Spear himself last week met with top officials at HHS and urged for a quick release of guidelines for hair testing as a federally accepted method of mandatory drug screening.
“Hair testing provides a longer detection window and is easier to collect and harder to adulterate than urinalysis,” Spear said. “As we’ve explained to HHS, many trucking companies are using urinalysis to meet federal requirements, while also paying the additional cost to conduct hair testing. Federal standards must be updated to include the most effective testing methods.”
The letter concluded with a strong admonition to HHS and SAMHSA)
“We respectfully request that swift action be taken to expeditiously complete required technical guidelines for hair testing standards,” the senators said. “Development of these standards will pave the way for more employers to use this testing method and could potentially identify a greater number of safety-sensitive employees who violate federal drug testing regulations.”
Seven members of Congress earlier this month signed a letter offering their support for a petition submitted to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration urging the agency to allow hair testing rather than a urinalysis to meet federal drug testing requirements for commercial truck driver applicants.
Signing the letter were Rick Crawford; R-Ark.; Don Bacon, R-Neb.; Bruce Westerman, R-Ark.; Martha McSally, R-Ariz.; Steve Womack, R-Ark.; French Hill, R-Ark., and Ted Budd, R-N.C.
“If granted,” the letter states, “the U.S. freight transportation companies that filed the petition may use a hair analysis rather than a urinalysis to meet the federal drug test requirements for commercial driver job applicants.” It also says that hair testing is “more reliable in identifying lifestyle drug users than the less expensive and less reliable urine exam.”
The petitioners include J.B. Hunt Transport, Schneider National Carriers, Werner Enterprises, Knight Transportation, Dupre Logistics and Maverick Transportation.