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Hair Testing for Drugs in the USA, via FMCSA!

Rather than wait for a rule making, several major motor carriers have petitioned the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for exemptions that would allow them to use hair-testing in lieu of urinalysis to comply with pre-employment drug testing regulations for truck drivers. ( Just a safety thought, how does this one work for the bald guys?)

A standard hair follicle screen covers a period of approximately 90 days, but is susceptible to time variation depending on the growth rate of your hair. The hair sample is cut as close to the scalp as possible and the most recent 3.9cm (or 1.5 inches) are tested.

The petitioners contend that if FMCSA grants exemptions to these companies, drug users could be “more readily identified” because these transport/logistics companies could then share failed hair-test results with other firms when they inquire about former drivers and applicants. Currently, federal regulations do not allow transportation companies to share these results.

While the FAST Act highway bill passed last year includes a pathway to permitting hair-testing, it is a winding and potentially long one. The provision authorizes hair-testing as an acceptable alternative to urinalysis in pre-employment screening for use of controlled substances and when conducting random testing for use of controlled substances if the operator was subject to hair-testing during pre-employment testing.

That hairbrush is in the hands of HHS. In its press release on the petition, the Trucking Alliance argues that “HHS is expected to request more time to develop its guidelines” and after that “further steps will require the Department of Transportation and FMCSA to announce notices and rulemakings before a final rule enabling hair-testing as an alternative to urine testing is issued, a process that could take years.”

Rather than wait for a rule, the petitioners want exemptions to enable to share the results of the hair-testing they have already chosen to conduct in addition to the required urinalysis. “This petition clearly shows the loophole in FMCSA’s desire to keep drug users out of trucks,” Lane Kidd, managing director of the Trucking Alliance, told HDT.

Heller said that TCA would prefer to see an industry-wide rule on hair-testing, rather than company-by-company exemptions, as that would “give all carriers the option to participate.” He did acknowledge that such a rulemaking “would take a long time” especially because HHS must act on it first.

However, he stressed that any such rule should make hair-testing an optional means of complying with drug-testing requirements for driver applicants. “We do want to make sure it would become an ‘and/or’ option as hair-testing is more expensive [than urinalysis alone], Heller explained.

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