ATTENTION TRUCKERS: Did you know that there is currently a push to allow hair drug test screenings in place of the current federally mandated urine tests? A coalition of trucking carriers known as The Trucking Alliance believes that hair testing is overall a more viable and effective option when compared to the standard urinalysis testing.
Who is in The Trucking Alliance and what is their purpose?
The Trucking Alliance is made up of eight members: Cargo Transporters, Dupre, J.B. Hunt, KLLM Transport Services, Knight Transportation, Maverick Transportation LLC, Swift, and U.S. Xpress. As a whole, the Alliance “supports regulations and legislation that can reduce truck accidents and injuries.” The Trucking Alliance may sound familiar to you as they were involved in the ever-controversial passing of electronic logging devices (ELDs) in all commercial trucks. They were also involved in the creation of a national drug and alcohol database. This database identifies truck drivers that have failed drug tests before and is used to “help keep drug abusers out of trucks.”
They are now aiming to have the FMCSA allow carriers to use hair testing only in assessing applicants for commercial truck driver jobs. Currently, the law states that all trucking carriers are required to test their drivers for illegal drugs via a urine sample test. Carriers are free to supplement the urine tests with hair tests but they cannot report the findings. The Trucking Alliance disagrees with this and instead believes:
“Drug testing in the pre-employment phase of hiring truck drivers is a federal law. Hair testing is one of the most effective ways to identify lifestyle drug users and keep them out of commercial trucks. Yet the federal government doesn’t recognize hair testing, and in fact, freight transportation companies that utilize hair testing cannot submit the positive results to the new drug and alcohol clearinghouse that Congress created in 2012 (see above).”
There you have it. According to The Trucking Alliance, hair testing is a more effective way of screening for “lifestyle drug users” and they believe they should be able to place positive hair test results onto the database for drugs and alcohol. This statement by the Trucking Alliance provokes the question, is hair testing a more effective method of finding habitual drug users?
How effective is hair testing for drugs?
Hair testing has been proven to be extremely effective in detecting opioid users. For example, if a person were to take a traditional urine drug test they would only have to avoid taking opioids for a few hours leading up to their test. They would most likely pass the test and be out on the road driving under the influence of who knows what. However, a hair test will detect drug use from the previous 90 days. (See the chart below for the results of Psychemedics hair testing)
As you can see, hair testing had by far the widest detection period when compared to drug testing via blood, saliva, or urine samples. This shows us that urinalysis is only effective for detecting drug use during the time immediately leading up to the test. So, does The Trucking Alliance have a point? Should hair testing be allowed? Let us know on Twitter, Facebook, or in the comment section below.
Trucking companies that have chosen to add hair testing to their pre-employment screening process have seen staggering results. For example, let’s take a look at J.B. Hunt. In 2017, Lane Kidd, the managing director of The Trucking Alliance, revealed that J.B. Hunt had 1,213 applicants test positive on their pre-employment hair drug tests. However, 90 percent of their applicants passed the federally mandated urine test. Additionally, since 2008, J.B. Hunt has had to turn away nearly 6,000 applicants “who failed a hair sample test but passed a urine test.”
“Clearly, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s pre-employment drug test protocols are missing most lifestyle drug users and opioid addicts and that’s a national problem for our industry.” — Lane Kidd, Managing Director of The Trucking Alliance
The staggering stats (left) help to drive home Kidd’s point that it’s “a national problem for our industry.” That’s why Kidd and the rest of The Trucking Alliance are lobbying Congress for legislation that would require all driver applicants to be tested using a hair sample.
The downsides of hair testing
The first obvious downside of hair testing is the cost. Carriers that choose to conduct hair testing for drugs are going to have to pay that additional cost themselves. Hair testing will typically cost an employer around $125, which is around double the cost of urine testing. They will have to decide for themselves if the cost of testing applicants via hair sample is worth it. For some, it will be because of its effectiveness. Although urine tests are around half the price, the return on investment on hair tests is definitely greater; just ask J.B. Hunt.
Another downside of hair testing is the detection window. According to the vice president for business development of National Drug Screening, Tom Fulmer:
Although on paper the downsides of hair testing may be outweighed by the positives, most trucking companies out there are still choosing to exclusively use urinalysis. Only time will tell if The Trucking Alliance gets what they want and all we can do now is speculate. One thing is for sure though: The Trucking Alliance is headstrong in their determination to allow hair testing in lieu of urinalysis.
Truck Driver Power wants to know what you think of this article. Feel free to reach out to us on Twitter, Facebook, or in the comment section below. If you would like to reach out to me personally you can find me on Twitter @CharleyMeyer6.
Start your professional trucking profile with Truck Driver Power. When you’re looking for a fresh start with a different carrier, turn on the Hire Me Now™ feature in the Truck Driver Power app and start receiving job offers that better fit your needs.
Good luck out there and happy trucking!