WASHINGTON — The Alliance for Driver Safety & Security (Trucking Alliance) says the carriers who petitioned the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for an exemption to allow hair testing in lieu of a urinalysis to comply with pre-employment drug testing regulations for truck drivers are utilizing a more reliable method for identifying drug users than the vast majority of freight and logistics carriers in the U.S.
The FMCSA currently recognizes only urinalysis to meet this requirement.
The petitioners all utilize hair testing because they say an applicant can stay clean for a period immediately prior to a urinalysis while hair testing can detect lifestyle drug abusers who might avoid detection with a urine test.
The Alliance filed its comments in support of the petitioners, which include J.B. Hunt Transport, Schneider National Carriers, Werner Enterprises, Knight Transportation, Dupre Logistics and Maverick Transportation.
J.B. Hunt, Knight, Dupre and Maverick are all members of the Alliance.
Other Alliance companies include Cargo Transporters, KLLM Transport Services and US Xpress.
Drugs are involved in too many large truck accidents, the Trucking Alliance said in its comments.
“Lifestyle drug users have no place in the commercial truck driver profession,” the Alliance said. “Truck driving is an occupation that exposes the general public to possible safety risks, because motorists share the highways with thousands of commercial truck drivers every day. Freight transportation companies, the federal government and state commercial vehicle enforcement agencies have a moral responsibility to ensure that commercial truck drivers are well trained, rested, and drug-and-alcohol-free, as they deliver our products.”
The Alliance noted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that between 2012 and 2014, there were 560 fatal accidents involving large trucks, where the truck driver tested positive for illegal drug use.
“All of these 560 truck drivers were presumed to have passed their urine exam before employment,” the Alliance commented. “Yet, they were identified as drug users after these fatal accidents occurred.”
The Alliance said lifestyle drug users skirt the system.
“There are numerous products available to purchase online and at truck stops across America, that enable a person to mask their drug use in a urine exam,” the Alliance said. “But hair testing is more difficult to disguise a person’s drug use. In fact, Psychemedics, a leading hair testing laboratory, estimates that 85 percent of the drug users identified by its hair testing process would be missed by a urinalysis.”
Alliance members which have used hair testing have been able to screen out prospective employees that likely would have passed a urinalysis, the comments noted.
Maverick has reported that 108 people who applied for employment as truck drivers passed the urine exam but failed their hair test.
J.B. Hunt Transport has voluntarily conducted hair tests on commercial driver applicants for 10 years.
Since then, more than 4,700 J.B. Hunt driver applicants passed their uranalysis but the hair exam identified them as drug users.
The Alliance noted that of the more than 600,000 U.S. trucking companies and private fleets, fewer than 100 are estimated to utilize hair tests in their pre-employment protocols.
The Alliance said the petition for exemption was not without support, merit or precedent.
“For example, in 2013 after recognizing the efficiencies of hair testing over a urinalysis, Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Ark., was joined by Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., and others in introducing “The Drug Free Commercial Driver Act,” the Alliance said, noting that the legislation would have directed the Secretary of Transportation to modify regulations and allow a motor carrier to use hair testing in lieu of a urinalysis as a method for detecting use of controlled substances by an operator, but only for pre-employment testing and random testing.
The legislation did not receive consideration.
Moreover, the Alliance said, the FAST Act directed the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to issue scientific and technical guidelines for hair testing as a method to detect controlled substance abuse.
After these guidelines are adopted, the FAST Act allows the FMCSA to initiate a rulemaking to permit hair testing as an acceptable alternative to urine testing for certain drug tests.
However, since such a rulemaking could take years and could fall prey to President Donald Trump’s freeze on regulations.
The Alliance said companies report that not one lawsuit has been filed against their
companies by a person who failed a hair exam, in which they claimed a false test result,
employment prejudice, or for any other reason.
“Granting the petition for exemption will enable the petitioners to continue their effective, established and nationally recognized protocol for achieving their worthy objective, without incurring needless expenses, and while HHS and FMCSA complete their legislatively mandated tasks and rulemakings regarding hair testing,” the Alliance concluded.
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