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Trucking Alliance asking FMCSA to allow hair tests into drug clearinghouse

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Trucking Alliance asking FMCSA to allow hair tests into drug clearinghouse
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has received an application from The Trucking Alliance (TA) asking that the results of hair testing for drugs be reported to the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse.

WASHINGTON — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has received an application from The Trucking Alliance (TA) asking that the results of hair testing for drugs be reported to the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse.

The application includes motor carriers Cargo Transporters, Dupré Logistics LLC, Frozen Food Express, J.B. Hunt Transport Inc., KLLM Transport Services, Knight Transportation, Maverick Transportation LLC, Schneider, Swift Transportation, US Xpress and May Trucking Co.

FMCSA officials note that although the agency “lacks the statutory authority to grant the Trucking Alliance’s request for exemption until the Department of Health and Human Services has taken certain action, FMCSA requests public comment on the exemption application, as required by statute.”

The TA applied for an exemption from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) “to amend the definition of actual knowledge to include the employer’s knowledge of a driver’s positive hair test, which would require such results be reported to the FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse and to inquiring carriers.”

Hair testing is in use by employers and court systems across the continent, but it hasn’t yet been approved for controlled substance testing by the FMCSA.

TA members currently utilize hair testing in addition to urine testing.

However, regulations don’t recognize hair testing for FMCSA purposes, including compliance with testing, reporting, and record keeping policies. Because of this, carriers that test hair samples must also test urine samples, adding considerable cost to the testing process.

Hair testing can detect the use of cocaine within the past 90 days, and even longer in some cases. The same goes for amphetamines and other controlled substances.

There’s little doubt the introduction of the FMCSA’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse has had an impact on the efficiency of testing and reporting. Because of the improved sharing of information, drivers who test positive or refuse to test are finding it much more difficult to simply change carriers.

As of Dec. 31, 2020, the Clearinghouse has reported 104,840 drivers with disqualifying violations. By far, marijuana metabolite was the most common substance identified, with 55.7% of positives showing the drug. Cocaine came in a distant second, responsible for 15.4% of identified substances.

However, as The Trucker reported in February, a study conducted earlier this year at the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) claims the number of positive results for cocaine and other drugs would have been much higher if an improved testing method — namely hair testing — was used.

The UCA study, commissioned by members of TA, used data collected from TA member carrier hair testing programs and reports from the FMCSA Clearinghouse. Prepared by Joe Cangelosi, Ph.D., and Doug Voss, Ph.D., the study found that an additional 58,910 drivers would have failed pre-employment drug tests in 2020 if hair testing had been used instead of or in addition to urine testing. The study found the use of so-called “harder” drugs, such as cocaine and opioids, is seriously underreported by the FMCSA’s current urine testing policy.

UCA researchers compared 1,429,842 truck driver pre-employment urine drug test results reported by the Clearinghouse with 593,832 urine and hair test results submitted by TA member carriers.

“Federal law prohibits truck drivers from using illegal drugs, yet thousands are escaping detection,” said Lane Kidd, managing director of TA in a January 11 press release. “Drug-impaired truck drivers are a critical public safety issue, but employing these drivers can be a considerable liability risk.”

Several trucking groups, including the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA), also support hair testing.

“We support the efforts of hair testing and recognize that it certainly plays a major role in discovering drug use among potential drivers or drivers that may be operating within our industry,” said David Heller, senior vice president of safety and government affairs for TCA.

Advocates for hair testing say the method has advantages over urine testing — perhaps most importantly, drug residues are stored much longer in the hair than in the urine. Cocaine, for example, can be out of the user’s system in as little as 48 hours, depending on the amount used. Drivers who use cocaine can simply stop using before reporting for a new job, or even before returning to a company terminal where a random drug screen is a possibility.

Hair testing can detect the use of cocaine within the past 90 days, and even longer in some cases. The same goes for amphetamines and other controlled substances.

Marijuana metabolites tend to remain in the body longer and can show up in a urine test a month or more after use. The large percentage of positive results for marijuana reported by the Clearinghouse could be more an indication of how long the drug is detectable in urine samples than of the prevalence of use by drivers.

Additionally, hair testing proponents argue, there are methods drivers can use to try to defeat urine testing, including substituting urine from another person or using synthetic urine, which is easily available online. There are even “delivery” products that provide an assist in passing an observed test. Diluting specimens with water is often attempted as well.

With hair testing, specimens are collected by approved personnel with a pair of scissors.

Cheating the test is also much more difficult than with a urine test.

The Truckers Cliff Abbott contributed to this report.

 

The Trucker News Staff

The Trucker News Staff produces engaging content for not only TheTrucker.com, but also The Trucker Newspaper, which has been serving the trucking industry for more than 30 years. With a focus on drivers, the Trucker News Staff aims to provide relevant, objective content pertaining to the trucking segment of the transportation industry. The Trucker News Staff is based in Little Rock, Arkansas.

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The Trucker News Staff produces engaging content for not only TheTrucker.com, but also The Trucker Newspaper, which has been serving the trucking industry for more than 30 years. With a focus on drivers, the Trucker News Staff aims to provide relevant, objective content pertaining to the trucking segment of the transportation industry. The Trucker News Staff is based in Little Rock, Arkansas.
For over 30 years, the objective of The Trucker editorial team has been to produce content focused on truck drivers that is relevant, objective and engaging. After reading this article, feel free to leave a comment about this article or the topics covered in this article for the author or the other readers to enjoy. Let them know what you think! We always enjoy hearing from our readers.

6 Comments

I think a lot of this has been blown way out of proportion. I mean it’s a well known fact in our industry that the federal government and entities tied to it controlling the businesses have targeted older men and women in this field. We seem to have to go through a more rigorous process these days and than are monitored also periodically based on our age. However I think hair testing would be ok with me until they say something about finding something I don’t use in my system. Which I’ve heard other people say has happened to them. Recently (reefer) use has been legalized and seems to be everywhere and allowed accept the trucking industry. Yet you can go out and have a CRAFT beer or even at home only to find out after it had components of Marijuana put into the brewing process. Or perhaps eating a edible of sorts that has same. These all show signs of illegal drug use according to law for us yet I feel is wrong in those circumstances. I myself to tell the truth hope that the system comes up with an immediate way of detecting actually time of use of an illegal drug. A way to have drivers in Particular be tested for drug use and how about rest time also. Because there sure seems to be a lot out behind the wheel these days who aren’t rested. I also think medical use should be allowed during our time off . It’s well documented on how it supports certain treatments for people . But than again who am I to suggest anything. I just work with and around idiots these days it seems.

What is the percentage of serious injury or death involved accidents caused by commercial drivers who were found to have illegal drugs in their system? That would be interesting to know.

Contrary to common belief, drugs, and alcohol abuse are not among the top causes of these crashes.

Instead, the Large Truck Crash Causation Study conducted by the FMCSA discovered that mechanical defects (with tires, most often), new tour routes, and fatigue are the most common causes of truck crashes. Aggressive driving has also been emphasized as a frequent cause, although it has had a direct effect in no more than 5% of the cases. In contrast, consider the fact that only 0.4% of crashes in the study were caused by illegal substance abuse, and 0.3% from alcohol consumption.

Source: Isaacs&Isaacs

Great idea if three things are adhered to:
1) following up with primary care physicians about any prescriptions the person may have been on in the past relavent to the time frame the test reports for and including emergency room visits at any hospital with proper documentation.
2) Those same carriers should not be permitted to hire anyone to collect the specimens since many of them cut costs and their staff collecting the specimens often use the same Norelco or Phillips electric shavers on many candidates in a single day and do not strictly take from the subjects head which is the proposed method and with scissors and a different pair with every candidate.
3) The collector shouldn’t be wearing nor risk contamination of the person’s test by other candidates follicles falling onto their lab coats or becoming entangled into their own bodily hair upon time of collection.
Lastly, if any tests were to come up false positive or positive for anything then a follow up test with a local county or city official should be required to prevent the possibility of bribery by employer personel to intentionally cause any candidates to fail simply because of a money transaction since it could ruin their career as well as life and family. Especially if they pass any other testing and have a medical background of having exposure to any such drug which can cause a positive test but isn’t the same drug and the MRO shouldn’t be someone paid by the employer.
Sounds like just a way for a motor carrier to abuse authority in a changing landscape where many of them had rather remove humans from a semi altogether for profit sakes and not care about the impact on that person’s life. If that second test and not of the same test collection series from the initial test, shows positive then it can go on record. Otherwise it’s too easy for anyone to legally slander someone.

My piss is enough! Tired of giving up rights! Isn’t it hard enough to hire truckers- especially over the road truckers these days??? Someone could of took a puff off a joint while on vacation or whatever and do not deserve their careers to be ruined for that! How about we start putting all government officials under the same rules? All police workers? Bet half the police force would disappear if you put them under same scrutiny! The system that is in place already has way too many faults. I have a friend that quit a job and that employer reported him as refusing a drug test. I personally been through this with a horrible employer that fired me saying I failed a drug test that I apparently took a week after they had fired me. There is no recourse to these actions! It is the corporations are perfect and never lie, the drug tests are never wrong, there is no possible chance of human error, and so on… bull poop! Then there is absolutely nothing the driver can do about it but spend all this money on an SAP and courses that are not needed while they are now struggling to feed their families. There needs to be some kind of system in place for those who claim something is not right. I’ve been randomly tested since the CDL was forced upon us and have never failed, so thats what 30ish years and then told employers can’t lie because that is illegal (lol, yeah okay) and the testing is 100% accurate, which is almost as funny as hearing employers aren’t allowed to lie. Bottom line- Fix the broken system you have before adding anything else to deter new drivers!

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