Carriers promote hair drug testing

| August 01, 2012

Major trucking leaders continue to advocate for the option of drug testing using hair instead of urine in federally mandated company driver pre-employment screening and random testing.

The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration sets mandatory guidelines for Department of Transportation’s commercial driver drug testing. In 2004, it considered using hair testing and later concluded the proposal needed further research.

Hair testing is much more difficult to tamper with to avoid a positive result than urine analysis, wrote Schneider National’s Don Osterberg in a July 30 Transport Topics opinion piece. The senior vice president of the Wisconsin carrier stated hair testing detects drug use over several months versus urine tests, which indicate drug use from the last 24 to 48 hours.

In 2008, Schneider began including hair testing in its pre-hiring process for drivers before adding it to the company’s random-testing program in 2011. As of last June, 120 prospective drivers failed the urine test, but 1,400 prospective drivers had drug-positive hair tests.

J.B. Hunt, Gordon Trucking, C.R. England and Roehl Transport are among carriers that conduct hair tests, in addition to urine tests.

Last year, England added hair testing after the Utah carrier’s trial run indicated hair tested positive at a rate of three times higher than urine alone.

American Trucking Association members that implemented hair testing detected drug use in nearly 2.4 to 10.4 percent more drivers than urine analysis alone, says Abigail Potter, an ATA researcher, who spoke to the SAMHSA Drug Testing Advisory Board last January.

Two years earlier, Potter had submitted comments to the Office of the Secretary of Transportation’s on Procedures for Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing. The association urged OST and Health and Human Services to “aggressively evaluate” using hair and other alternative specimens. The OST should partner with ATA for a pilot program evaluating hair testing by carriers, it added.

In 2006, J.B. Hunt began using hair testing and the following year, Hunt’s senior vice president, Greer Woodruff, testified before Congress on its effectiveness. The ATA wanted SAMHSA and DOT to issue rulemaking to allow hair as an alternative testing method.

By 2011, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration indicated the Arkansas-based carrier’s rate of positive urine tests had dropped 75 percent through using hair samples, according to the Transportation Research Board.

Gordon Trucking began testing urine and hair following a testing period using both methods from July to September 2011. Of the 170 drivers screened, hair testing detected 10 positive candidates that would have otherwise been hired, the Washington truckload carrier reported.

  • jeff clark

    I’ll do either, but not both. Hair samples seem more logical.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/allen.griggs.58 Allen Griggs

    LOL, First, drugs stay in urine for more than 48 hrs. Secondly this is all about cost and last but not least of all. It seems to me that these companies have high drug abuse levels for the industry. Lets face it Schneider and CR England are not know for their quality drivers and Gordon Trucking is border line. All the companies mentioned are “rookie” mills and most of the drivers they have are not in the industry 1 year later. Once again bean counters are trying to micro manage truckers behind the excuse of safety. One bottle of bleach and 4 bottles water , 5 minutes and you have no hair test that you can use. Can’t tamper with hair? You could not be more wrong.

  • BDrake

    The companies don’t care about who is using what or when. If taking mandatory blood samples would keep their insurance rates down then they would run a test period then make it a company wide mandate. The problem with hair testing is that they, allegedly, can find any toxic or statutorily illegal substance the one has been exposed to knowingly or unknowingly for as far back as the length of one’s hair. Because of something in my environment 6 months ago, also 6 months before this company decided to hire me contingent on hair testing results, I become condemned as a drug addict that will some be required to become a permanent part of your drivers license record. The US Supreme Court has decided that a company can not use off duties activities for the purpose of denying or terminating employment. This is going to move throughout society. All it really amounts to is obtaining information about prospective employees that is nobodies business but that persons. I agree that the companies mentioned are notorious for putting new drivers on the road the vast majority of which they know are going to washout in the 1st year. And these same companies also top the records for accidents. So, it’s only a natural to point at the most dangerous trucks on the road and say look the drug abuse that is going on when it was not related to on duty or even employed at the time of exposure and connect the two. Step one to industry wide ineffectual mandates.

  • bill

    these big trucking company executives are such a joke-such cowards

  • http://www.facebook.com/lori.brodersen1 Lori Skyles Brodersen

    The way I look at it, if you don’t do drugs then why would or should it make a difference?

  • Ronald Schwartz

    .Everyone involved in this standard should equally be included..From politicians to company officials. Saving money with insurance and driver costs are significant enough to warrant alliance with anything propogated against our minority..to only exempt themselves of those same rigors. True safety will come when they diligently protect our safety zones and educate and persecute the public away from arrogant and insolate driving habits. Abuses on the driver has always led to abuses with the driver…while this has changed somewhat by changing shoulders….there needs to always be moderation…rather than condemnation for those who keep our highways safe…

  • Wolfe of battle creek,mi

    This will sound bad but the problem with all of the random testing is you are guilty until proven innocent. It seems to go against what our country was formed for, freedom. Drugs are a problem today, and yesterday. It would be better to test after an incident of some type as it would create reasonable cause. If test results show positive and the lawyers battle it out and the results hold conclusive, then impose max punishment to include lifetime loss of driving privlage, and jail time. This would be what should be expected of a person that chooses to be a professional driver. We don’t live in a country that tells you what profession to be, we choose it. If you want to do drugs then be responsible for your actions, choose a better job as to not endanger other people. In USA I say freedom is not free, we have to be responsible for the choices we make. Sorry for the long wind but this just gets me going when people want to give up freedom for protectionism.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Gordon-Alkire/1842744749 Gordon Alkire

    If carriers did not reduce their hiring standards over the years this would not be necessary to do. Several large carriers had a dress code. I worked for one of them. I saw the decline in standards. including office personnel..

    When a driver walks in for an interview and has dirty clothes on, greasy hair, smells bad and dresses like, talks like a dumpster diver why does it have to get to the drug testing stage? If a prospective driver is put up in a motel and doesn’t use the shower why is he still in the orientation class.? If his past employment is questionable why does it get to drug testing stage. ? If a prospective driver shaves his body hair off where does that go? just wondering.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Gordon-Alkire/1842744749 Gordon Alkire

    Lets take this one step further. 85% to 88 % of car truck accidents are caused by the car driver. FACT.

    Why aren’t the car drivers tested to get a drivers license or insurance? I think it would remove unfit drivers off the road and make it safer , cheaper, and more efficient.

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    Truckers need to keep in their truck a drug testing kit and forms in case of an accident you immediately let the officers on scene know and do it then. DEMAND to be taken to hospital, clinic or other safe clean location like a precinct and demand drug testing. Not hours away as lawyers can turn, twist and degrade with fancy word to jurys. If more drivers did this our industry would not have the black marks on its face that it does now.