Hair Testing for Trucking Employment Closer to Being a Reality

By Eric G Braun, Senior Writer, USRW

The American Trucking Association is applauding U.S. Senator John Thune (R - S.D.) and a bipartisan group of senators for sending a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, urging federal guidelines for hair-test drug screening standards be expedited.  Thune, chairman of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, was joined by Senators John Boozman (R – Ark.), Joe Manchin (D – W.Va.), Deb Fischer (R – Neb.) and Ron Johnson (R -- Wisc.) in signing the letter. 

 “American Trucking Association thanks Chairman Thune and Senators Boozman, Manchin, Fischer and Johnson for their leadership,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear.  “Making sure America’s truck drivers are safe and drug-free is among our highest priorities."

“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 real impact on the trucking industry.”

This week, Spear met with top officials at the Department of Health and Human Services and urged for a quick release of guidelines for hair testing as a federally accepted method of mandatory drug screening.  The FAST Act, signed into law in 2015, required HHS to issue scientific and technical guidelines for hair testing by December 4, 2016 – a deadline that was not met.

“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.”

According to the folks at Quest Diagnostics, unlike urine drug testing, which may only detect drug use within the past 2-3 days, hair testing is able to detect a pattern of repetitive drug use for up to 90 days. While urine testing is well suited to detect recent drug use for post-accident or reasonable suspicion testing, a hair test is the most effective way to evaluate long-term patterns of use, making it an excellent option for a pre-employment or random testing program.

Those who get “stage fright” and have “performance issues” with a urine test, will see that a hair test is less personal.

Hair testing also is harder to beat. The collection is 100% witnessed and you cannot alter it. Accordingly, you’re not getting away with anything, including that one time you didn’t inhale. Quest Diagnostics tests for amphetamines (amphetamine, methamphetamine, MDMA and MDA), opiates (codeine, morphine and 6-monoacetylmorphine) or “expanded” opiates (which includes semi-synthetic opiates), cocaine (and cocaine metabolites), marijuana metabolite (THC carboxylic acid metabolite), and PCP (phencyclidine).

Hair testing requires a small sample of hair that is collected under direct supervision without any invasion of privacy. Donors are typically sent to one of thousands of collection sites equipped and trained for hair testing. During a hair collection, the collector cuts approximately 100-120 strands of hair from the crown of the donor’s head. The hair is cut as close to the scalp as possible, so only the strands of hair above the scalp are tested and not the actual hair follicle.

Overall, the industry endorses the move and wants Congress to “stream” line the policy in quick fashion.

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