FMCSA to reopen comment period on fleets' request for hair testing

By Mark Schremmer, Land Line staff writer | Thursday, February 23, 2017

There’s still time for those wanting to comment on several big fleets’ request to use hair testing in lieu of urinalysis for pre-employment screenings of truck drivers.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration plans to reopen the comment period on Friday, Feb. 24, after the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations’ Transportation Trades Department and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters requested 60-day extensions. The comment period had closed on Feb. 21.

Urinalysis satisfies the current FMCSA drug and alcohol testing requirements. However in January, J.B. Hunt Transport, Schneider National Carriers, Werner Enterprises, Knight Transportation, Dupre Logistics and Maverick Transportation requested an exemption, because they said they believe their data “demonstrates that hair analysis is a more reliable and comprehensive basis for ensuring detection of controlled substance use.”

An exemption would allow the applicable companies to discontinue pre-employment urine testing for commercial driver’s license holders and use hair testing exclusively. Currently, the six carriers use hair analysis as a method for pre-employment drug testing, but it must be voluntary because urine testing is the only screening method accepted under the regulations. If the FMCSA approves the exemption, any driver who tests positive for a controlled substance through a hair test would be sidelined until he or she completes the return-to-duty process.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association submitted its comments on Feb. 21, urging the FMCSA not to grant an exemption “for an unproven methodology using non-standardized procedures and protocols that could possibly affect the livelihood of thousands of drivers.”

OOIDA noted the low number of fatality crashes involving truck drivers cited for being under the influence of drugs or alcohol and questioned some of the potential problems with hair testing.

“Some of the concerns for using hair testing for controlled substance are hair color and texture bias,” OOIDA wrote. “There has been past studies that indicate that those with darker hair are more likely to show longer periods of time where drug use can be detected.”

Being around someone who is taking a drug, such as marijuana, could potentially yield a positive result for a controlled substance when using a hair test, OOIDA said.

The Association said the fleets didn’t offer any evidence that should allow them to abandon the “time tested method” of urinalysis for a method with many question marks.

“The applicants have presented no evidence that the hair testing labs have met the rigorous standards of scientific methodology for testing, nor have they shown that the hair testing equipment and protocol have been consistent and unbiased,” OOIDA wrote.

Written comments regarding the possible exemption will be able to be submitted at or by mailing Docket Services, U.S. Department of Transportation, Room W12-140; 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE; Washington, DC 20590-0001, or by fax at 202-493-2251.

Comments must be received within 60 days of the notice’s publication in the Federal Register.

Copyright © OOIDA