President Trump signed into law on Oct. 24 legislation aimed at combating the nation’s opioid crisis that contains provisions on hair testing for illegal drug use that have been long sought by trucking lobbies.

The Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018, which passed both Houses of Congress with near-unanimous bipartisan votes, directs the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to report to Congress on its progress creating and issuing guidelines for hair testing.

Federal law requires trucking companies to drug test new drivers and randomly test existing drivers. But currently, only urinalysis is recognized by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration as a proven drug testing method, meaning carriers that want to hair-test drivers must still do urinalysis as well. Proponents of hair testing argue that it has advantages, including a longer detection window, easier collection, and results that are harder to fake.                                                           

The new law requires the Department of Health and Human Services toreport within 60 days to the Senate Commerce and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committees on the status for hair testing guidelines, the reasons for delay in issuing guidelines, and a schedule for completion of the guidelines. Also included in the legislation are reporting requirements on the development of the Drug  and Alcohol Clearinghouse and a deadline for completing work on oral fluids testing.

The American Trucking Associations said in a statement that it has “long advocated for, and worked closely with Senate Commerce Committee staff” to secure the hair-testing provisions in the legislation.

“Our fleets need to depend on the most accurate, reliable and failsafe drug testing methods available today, and this legislation pushes the federal government to recognize those means of testing,” said Bill Sullivan, ATA’s executive vice president of advocacy. “We thank our champions in Congress— Senators Thune and Fischer and Representatives Crawford and Fleischmann— who have played a pivotal role in advancing this important safety issue.”

ATA noted that the FAST Act highway bill of 2015 had required the Department of Health and Human Services to issue scientific and technical guidelines for hair testing by December 2016, a deadline that was missed.

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