Majority of drivers are opposed to federal approval for hair-sample testing for drugs

| May 24, 2017

Recent news has shown a cohort of Senators pressing the Department of Health and Human Services to issue technical guidance for hair-sample testing — a required first step, according to the Department of Transportation, in FAST Act-mandated permission for such testing as an acceptable alternative for drug tests by urinalysis, the currently allowed method. Other news showed Congressional reps endorsing a request from a cohort of major carriers to be allowed to hair-test exclusively.

While such testing has long been sought by a variety of mostly large carrier interests, a majority of Overdrive readers oppose the move, objecting to the privacy intrusion they believe it represents.

Should hair-sample testing be allowed to satisfy federal driver drug testing requirements?

The polling above, conducted earlier this year, was accompanied by commentary both in support of (41 percent) and against (53 percent) the move toward allowing hair testing by companies and/or consortia to satisfy the random drug-testing requirements in the regulations. Many of those in the majority, opposing the move, echoed the sentiments of Bob Walker, who objected to what he saw as a more-intrusive test, in some ways, given hair analysis can show a longer history of usage than urinalysis.

Growing social (and legal, in some states) acceptance of marijuana is bound to produce false positives in hair tests, some drivers argue.

“Oh, I thought this was about safety on the highway,” Walker wrote. “I did not know the government needed to know what you did a month ago at your home.” Walker referenced a real possibility for many out there — passive contact with substances that are growing in social (and legal) acceptance. Marijuana, for instance, now legal for recreational use in several states, might show up in a hair test weeks down the line.

Go to a party where someone else is smoking marijuana, and “this could have happened a month ago and it will show up,” Walker says. “There goes your driving record.”

Urinalysis, however, gives a spot record of whether “you are on anything, not if you could have done something a month ago,” he adds. “I don’t do drugs and I try to stay away from where they are being used.”

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Other commentary against hair testing was more measured, worrying over the potential of it to introduce inconsistency into the federal drug-testing protocol. How will prospective employers be expected to interpret hair test results (and what window of time would be analyzed) in relation to those from the urine tests required today? one commenter asked. Answers to those questions might well come with the technical guidance Senators want DHHS to issue, and if not they’d certainly come up in rulemaking the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration says it will ultimately pursue to allow the method after necessary guidance.

Agreeing with the sizable minority of Overdrive readers who saw no problem with allowing the drug testing method, some readers centered on the practicality of the test and its collection procedures instead of broader implications. “Nomoredriving,” for instance, commenting under the poll here at OverdriveOnline.com, noted “I can supply hair on demand much easier than [urine]. And as for the comments about who cares what a driver does at home or his off-duty time … If a driver is using meth at home, it’s a good indication he does not have enough common sense in the first place.”

“Bigrphillips” objected to the notion of sample collection ease, of a fashion, with this quip: “I’m bald, so they’ll have to get a butt hair.”

Senators press regulators to speed up implementation of driver drug testing changes

The senators noted in the letter the December 2015-passed FAST Act highway bill required the HHS to issue guidelines for hair testing as a method ...

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