OOIDA: Hair-based drug testing would not make the roads safer

By David Tanner, senior editor

In comments filed to a federal agency, OOIDA says that the current standards for urine-based drug testing for commercial drivers are acceptable and that there’s no need to pursue hair-based testing as an alternative.

OOIDA filed comments in late June to a request for information by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) regarding specific policies and standards that may be applied to the Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing Programs.

Those guidelines are required to consider the “best available technology for ensuring the full reliability and accuracy of drug tests and strict procedures governing the chain of custody of specimens collected for drug testing.”

The agency issued a request for comments from stakeholders on whether hair-based testing, sample collection, preparation, validity and confirmatory processes warrant a change to the guidelines specific for pre-employment, random, reasonable suspicion, post-accident, fitness for duty or return to duty.

OOIDA questions the motives behind hair-based testing given the many incentives for truck and bus operators to drive safely. The Association is also concerned about false positive readings; a lack of criteria to distinguish between drug use and environmental contamination; and limitations that come along with a person’s age, sex, race and hair type.

OOIDA points out that in just 48 of the 30,057 fatal motor vehicle crashes in the United States in 2013 was the driver of a tractor-trailer found to be under the influence of alcohol, drugs or medication. That amounts to 0.16 percent.

Hair-based testing would not reduce that number, OOIDA says.

“The ultimate measure of any change to the current methods for testing should be a reduction in crashes,” OOIDA stated in its comments. “To this end we encourage SAMHSA to evaluate the safety performance of companies which have voluntarily adopted hair testing. If there is demonstrable evidence that hair testing has reduced the number of crashes their drivers are causing, then it may be worth considering the protocol for such a program and for the program to be consistent throughout other modes.”

“Otherwise hair testing should only be considered as an additional screening method they may choose as an appropriate individual business decision.” LL