Truck Driver Hair Testing Is Once Again Up For Discussion

The Alliance for Driver Safety & Security, otherwise known as the Trucking Alliance, has come out stating they plan to lobby congress to pass a new drug testing law that mandates anyone who is applying for a safety-sensitive truck driver job to take a drug test and verify they are not addicted to opiates or other illegal drug use.

The Trucking Alliance used a United Nations event to reveal this new initiative. They cited Brazil as an example of a country who was thinking forward on the issue. Brazil requires that new commercial truck drivers in Brazil pass a hair test before renewing their commercial vehicle driving license.

Since Brazil enacted this law, over 1 million truck drivers have failed their hair test or refused to renew their license to avoid getting caught in taking the test. The Alliance represents a coalition of freight and logistics companies that support safety technologies and regulations. They have been behind the push to create new speed limiter regulations, the ELD mandate, better truck driver training and advanced safety assistance technologies.

But Why Hair Tests?

The problem lies in the type of drugs that most truck drivers struggle with. Nearly half of all the truck drivers who fail drug tests do so because of opiates, no surprise considering the opiate addiction problem facing our country. Urine testing usually does not test positive for opiates because they are flushed out of the system rather quickly.

Hair testing, on the other end, usually can pinpoint opiates because the testing goes back far enough to discover the substance. The Alliance points to current drug testing methods as not enough to address the current substance abuse crisis enveloping the nation and the trucking industry. While many fleets don’t report major problems of failed drug tests, the Alliance purports the reason behind this is that fleets are not instituting hair tests for their employees.

Opioids can be undetectable in urine after a few hours, which allows opioid addicts to simply avoid drugs before submitting to a urine analysis. A hair test, however, detects opiate use up to 90 days out from use. Opiate pain killer includes everything from brands as diverse as hydromorphone to oxycodone, or trade names such as OxyContin, Percocet, and others. A urine analysis will miss these unless taken within an hour of use.

One of the proposals on the table includes Congress requiring tests for new truck drivers but requiring them for license renewals. Once a truck driver is on the road, it is critical that the motor carrier employing them is keeping track of whether they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. After all, lives are at stake.

Will It Matter In Our Current Political Environment?

Now the question is, will Congress or the Trump administration get on board with such a legislative push. We are currently in an anti-regulatory environment. Will more regulations, even if they make sense where trucking safety is concerned, make that much of a difference in the long run? While the Trucking alliance says yes, trucking industry advocates and trucking companies would like to keep those decisions in-house.

If hair testing is the right thing to do and will save lives, should motor carriers immediately jump on board? Also, is there a greater expense related to this type of extensive drug testing. Will small carriers be able to bear the cost? There are a lot of unanswered questions relating to drug testing and whether it should be mandatory, and it appears we won’t find the answers any time soon