Bill Aims to Give Hair-Testing Equal Footing

March 19, 2015

By David Cullen

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Photo via Pixabay
Photo via Pixabay

U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) today introduced bipartisan legislation that would allow the Department of Transportation “to recognize hair testing as an alternative option to give companies greater flexibility when conducting drug and alcohol testing,” according to a news release issued by the Senate.

The Drug Free Commercial Driver Act of 2015 is also cosponsored by Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND). Companion legislation was introduced as well in the House by Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR) and cosponsored by Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.), Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL), and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC)

The rationale for the bill is the same as that of legislation introduced on Capitol Hill back in October 2014: That when it comes to detecting employee drug and alcohol use, urinalysis is regarded as often less effective in detecting substance abuse—  as it provides only a two- to three-day window for detection-- while hair testing provides a 60- to 90-day window.

And while some employers already use hair testing for their own purposes, the federal government requires that duplicative urinalysis testing also take place.

For example, from May 2006 to December 2014, stated the Senate news release, J.B. Hunt Transport’s drug-testing data found that 110 driver applicants failed the urine test while 3,845 people had drug-positive hair test results. In addition, Schneider National’s pre-employment drug testing data from March 2008 to June 2012 found 120 prospective drivers failed the urine test while 1,400 applicants had drug-positive hair test results.  The upshot is that under current law, trucking companies that elect to use hair testing to gain more accurate test results must bear the added cost of administering both types of testing.

“Preventing drug users from operating commercial trucks will improve safety on our roads and enhance industry standards,” said Sen. Boozman. “This legislation eliminates the duplicative drug-testing process and allows trucking companies to use the more effective option, without having to pay for two tests.”

“Americans rely every day on the safety of our roads and highways as they commute to their jobs, travel to schools and recreational activities, and transport goods and products across the country,” Sen. Manchin said. “That is why this commonsense legislation is so important. By allowing companies to use more accurate alcohol and drug testing techniques to test those operating commercial vehicles, we will not only help combat the fight against substance abuse, but we will also help improve the safety of our roads.”

“My bill’s only concern is improving the safety of our roads,” Rep. Crawford said. “Some drug users, when they know that a drug test is likely, are able to abstain for just a few days before the test and beat the system. This bill would catch a much larger percentage of those drivers and keep them off the roads. As a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I’m always looking for ways to improve roadway safety, and this bill helps tackle that problem.” 

Both the Alliance for Driver Safety & Security (a.k.a. the Trucking Alliance) and the American Trucking Associations lauded the bipartisan measure aimed at improving the trucking industry’s pre-employment drug screening process.

Referencing the J.B. Hunt hair vs urine test results, Lane Kidd, managing director for the Trucking Alliance, noted that “this statistic is alarming because while J.B. Hunt was able to avoid putting these drug users in a commercial truck, many of them are likely driving a commercial truck somewhere today for a company that only utilizes a urine test.”

ATA is urging lawmakers to support this bipartisan legislation as it would “allow trucking companies to use a highly effective tool-- hair testing-- to meet federal requirements and prevent drug users from getting behind the wheel of trucks.”

"ATA is committed to improving highway safety, including doing all we can to prevent individuals who use drugs or alcohol from driving trucks," said ATA president and CEO Bill Graves. "ATA's advocacy [of mandatory drug and alcohol testing] has resulted in a steady decline in the small percentage of drivers who use drugs, and hair testing is the next logical step."

Graves added that while “trucking’s positive testing rate is remarkably low, Congress should provide a means for fleets, as part of the DOT testing regime, to further identify and eliminate from the industry those who don't share the industry's commitment to highway safety."

According to ATA, some fleets voluntarily conduct hair tests, in addition to mandatory urine tests, to identify habitual drug users who may otherwise briefly abstain from use or otherwise attempt to “beat the test” to gain trucking employment.

The trucking lobby noted that in 2008 the Government Accountability Office “highlighted the severity of these limitations in DOT’s current urine drug testing program.”

But because hair tests have not yet been accepted by DOT to meet federal testing requirements, other fleets have been deterred by the redundant costs of employing hair testing programs in addition to the required DOT urine-based tests, ATA stated.

Hair-specimen testing proponents say such screening provides a significantly longer detection window, is very difficult to adulterate, and eliminates collection issues associated with urine. As a result, hair testing has consistently identified over three times as many illegal substance users as urine testing in regulated industry pre-employment trial programs. 


  1. 1. m [ March 20, 2015 @ 03:35AM ]

    This is BullShit and an invasion of privacy. If urine test doesn't show any drugs or alcohol then the driver was fine to drive. The effect of drugs and alcohol only last a few hours to begin with.
    kets say driver goes home.friday night. He has a beer with his friends (it's not against the law) he goes to work on Monday. Tuesday the company gives a random urine test. He is clean. But instead they take a chunk of his hair (Hair does not rejuvenate in a couple of hours as does urine nor is it okay to taje a chunk from underneath it is still beyond an employers right) the hair will also show the drink he had at his or her childs wedding last month when he/she took a week off. No this is beyond a reasonable way to make or streets safer. It is away for government to invade our privacy and is infact an illegal search and seizure. Nothing more and kept you no safer. Give them this and they'll take more.

  2. 2. Stan Harper [ March 20, 2015 @ 08:12AM ]

    Alcohol is not detected with hair testing only illegal drugs hair test are still reviewed by MRO(Medcal Review Officer - Dr.)

  3. 3. Bay0Wulf [ March 20, 2015 @ 11:08AM ]

    This is an entirely specious thought process.

    Are some drugs illegal? Yes, Does any industry really have a right to decide to hold a person liable for usage of such things 2 to 3 months after having used them? No. This really isn't about safety this is about ... well, honestly, I'm not sure what its about.

    There are lots of drivers out there who got totally piss-eyed drunk last night who can still barely function but can get the key into the ignition and drive out of the truckstop parking lot.

    If I take a Hydrocodone because of legitimate pain (even though it is not prescribed) while I'm out running my chainsaw gathering firewood 5 weeks ago that will eliminate me as a driver? If I took a couple tokes at a party ... in Colorado maybe ... a couple weeks ago that will eliminate me as a driver?

    I understand safety. I've a CDL-A with all Endorsements and I don't want stupid insafe drivers on the road either (personally I think smartphones are worse than drugs at this point) but ...

    I did not become a Commercial Driver to become a Saint ... or Priest ... or Monk in the process. I love the work. I love the industry. I would no more get into a rig "impaired" than I would run down the middle of Main Street with a machine gun shooting people. This is completely unfair and unreasonable ... or, if this rule or law is to be passed then it should include EVERYBODY who has a driver's license. It should include EVERYBODY who has a job of any kind. It should include the ALL the POLITICIANS who are in office.

  4. 4. Cliff Downing [ March 21, 2015 @ 07:45AM ]

    I am just waiting for the lawsuits to start. Take a person who lives in Colorado. The smoke a doobie 4 months ago, totally legal. The then went to truck school to get their CDL. Now they get hair tested, which can show any substance use up to 6 months prior. So they get denied the job. But they haven't used any substance since starting any kind of driver training. Yep, this is going to get interesting. The Hair test gig is just stupid. It doesn't show if the user is under the influence, just that they did something whatever time ago. Not only would the new driver be affected, but what of someone who is a current driver who went on vacation to Colorado? They might have smoked a bowl, legally, but they are not under the influence for several days before returning to work. This can really play out to be a real can of worms. But they want it, so live with the barrage of lawyers lining up to take advantage of this.


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