The Alliance for Driver Safety & Security (Trucking Alliance) has submitted comments to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in support of a “Petition for Exemption” that if granted, will allow six freight transportation companies to utilize hair testing in lieu of a urinalysis to satsify federal pre-employment truck driver regulations. The Petition for Exemption does not propose that all carriers be required to utilize hair testing, only that these six carriers be permitted to conduct hair exams rather than both the hair and urine tests.
Here are the Trucking Alliance’s full comments submitted to the FMCSA:
“These comments are submitted by the Alliance for Driver Safety & Security (“Trucking Alliance”) in support of a “Petition for Exemption,” referenced above. Four of the six petitioners are member companies of The Trucking Alliance. If granted, these petitioners may use a hair analysis to meet federal drug test requirements for commercial driver job applicants. Hair testing is a more reliable (albeit twice as expensive) method for identifying lifestyle drug users, than the less expensive and less reliable urine exam.
“The Trucking Alliance is a coalition of freight transportation companies that support progressive safety reforms to reduce large truck accidents and to ensure a safe work environment for their commercial truck drivers. To achieve this objective, Trucking Alliance companies have adopted six safety principles, all of which exceed the federal requirements for operating as a motor carrier in the United States. Further, Trucking Alliance companies support additional regulatory and legislative proposals that if adopted, could further reduce the number of large truck accidents, injuries and fatalities on our nations’ highways.
“Trucking Alliance companies and the state in which they are headquartered are: Cargo Transporters (North Carolina), Dupré Logistics (Louisiana), JB Hunt Transport Services (Arkansas), KLLM Transport Services (Mississippi), Knight Transportation (Arizona), Maverick USA (Arkansas), and US Xpress (Tennessee). These transportation and logistics companies collectively employ 46,475 people in 49 states, operate more than 39,000 trucks and own more than 110,000 semitrailers and containers, delivering products safely and efficiently throughout North America and internationally.
“The Trucking Alliance concurs with petitioners in their stated reasons for deserving an exemption. But in the broader context, the petitioners are utilizing a more reliable method for identifying drug users than the vast majority of US freight and logistics carriers. The petitioners are deserving of an exemption, and for the following public safety reasons:
“Drugs are involved in too many large truck accidents. Lifestyle drug users have no place in the commercial truck driver profession. Truck driving is an occupation that exposes the general public to possible safety risks, because motorists share the highways with thousands of commercial truck drivers every day. Freight transportation companies, the federal government and state commercial vehicle enforcement agencies have a moral responsibility to ensure that commercial truck drivers are well trained, rested, and drug and alcohol free, as they deliver our products.
“But, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), between 2012 and 2014, there were 560 fatal accidents involving large trucks, where the truck driver tested positive for illegal drug use. All of these 560 truck drivers were presumed to have passed their urine exam before employment. Yet, they were identified as drug users after these fatal accidents occurred. (Note: According to NHTSA, no post-accident drug tests were conducted on another 7,773 truck drivers who were also involved in fatal truck accidents over the same two-year period.)
“Lifestyle drug users skirt the system. Today, there are numerous products available to purchase online and at truck stops across America, that enable a person to mask their drug use in a urine exam. But hair testing is more difficult to disguise a person’s drug use. In fact, Psychemedics, a leading hair testing laboratory, estimates that 85% of the drug users identified by its hair testing process would be missed by a urinalysis.
“Further, an untold number of lifestyle drug users are likely operating large trucks today. Consider that one petitioner, Maverick USA, has reported that 108 people who applied for employment as truck drivers at the company passed the urine exam but failed their hair test.
“Another petitioner, J.B. Hunt Transport, has voluntarily conducted hair tests on commercial driver applicants for 10 years. Since then, more than 4,700 J.B. Hunt driver applicants passed their uranalysis but the hair exam identified them as drug users.
“So only two companies have reported that 4,808 job applicants passed their urine test but failed their hair exam. They were denied employment. But how many of those applicants simply applied at another company that only required a urinalysis? Even more problematic are there are more than 600,000 US trucking companies and private fleets and fewer than 100 of these businesses are estimated to utilize hair tests in their pre-employment protocols.
“Congress Recognizes the Benefits of Hair Testing. The Petition for Exemption is not without support, merit or precedent. For example, in 2013, after recognizing the efficiencies of hair testing over a urinalysis, US Congressman Rick Crawford (R-AR) was joined by Congressman Lou Barletta (R-PA) and others in introducing “The Drug Free Commercial Driver Act.” The legislation would have directed the Secretary of Transportation (DOT) to modify regulations and allow a motor carrier to use hair testing in lieu of a urinalysis, as a method for detecting use of controlled substances by an operator, but only for pre-employment testing and random testing. However, the legislation did not receive consideration.
“More recently, Section 5402 of the “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act,” (FAST Act) contained a provision that directed the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to issue scientific and technical guidelines for hair testing, as a method to detect controlled substance abuse. After these guidelines are adopted, the FMCSA may initiate a rulemaking to permit hair testing as an acceptable alternative to urine testing for certain drug tests. However, this rulemaking process to recognize hair testing could take years.
“Drug Users Haven’t Questioned Results or Filed Lawsuits. Finally, Trucking Alliance companies report that not one lawsuit has been filed against their companies by a person who failed a hair exam, in which they claimed a false test result, employment prejudice, or for any other reason.
“In summary, the Petitioners are committed to keeping lifestyle drug users out of their trucks and off the nation’s highways. Granting the Petition for Exemption will enable the petitioners to continue their effective, established and nationally recognized protocol for achieving their worthy objective, without incurring needless expenses, and while HHS and FMCSA complete their legislatively mandated tasks and rulemakings regarding hair testing.”