AFL-CIO transportation coalition opposes hair testing exemption

By Mark Schremmer, Land Line staff writer | 4/27/2017

The Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, is among the groups speaking out against a request from several large carriers to allow them to use hair testing instead of urinalysis for pre-employment screenings of truck drivers.

TTD filed formal comments earlier this week, urging the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to follow established protocol and put science first. The organization cited concerns about the possibility of hair testing producing false results and the potential for racial bias.

“No one in America should be denied employment, because the trucking industry wants to rely on an unsound testing method as a way to cut drug-testing costs,” TTD President Edward Wytkind said in a news release. “Until hair testing is proven to be a reliable and fair way of testing for drug use and federal standards are in place, subjecting transportation workers to hair testing should not be up for serious consideration.”

Urinalysis satisfies the current FMCSA drug and alcohol testing requirements. However, 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 abuse.”

An exemption would allow the respective 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 also has spoken out against the hair testing exemption, filing formal comments in February.

“Some of the concerns for using hair testing for controlled substance are hair color and texture bias,” OOIDA wrote. “There have 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. It is believed that passive exposure to various controlled substances could be a concern. … There have been further concerns for those people who routinely color their hair and how those procedures may affect test results.”

Several civil rights groups, including the NAACP, ACLU, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and National Workrights Institute, have also opposed the exemption.

The American Trucking Associations and Road Safe America are among the groups that approve of the exemption.

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