FMCSA rejects request to use hair testing results

Jan 31, 2023

In December, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) denied a request from a group of carriers to expand the scope of the reported drug clearinghouse results to also include the results of hair testing.

The request for hair testing results to be included with urinalysis data on the FMCSA’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse was made by carriers represented by the Trucking Alliance, which includes major carriers such as J.B. Hunt, Knight-Swift Transportation, Maverick Transportation, Schneider National, and U.S. Xpress Enterprises.

Specifically, the alliance suggested that expanding testing would improve on-road safety and decrease the likelihood of truck drivers who use illegal drugs from operating commercial vehicles until they complete rehabilitation.

However, according to a statement released by the FMCSA, the agency does not have the required statutory authority to do so. In addition, the FMCSA stated that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) must first decide whether hair samples can be used in federal drug testing programs. Currently, HHS is determining whether hair testing results can be included due to potential complications such as hair bleaching.

“We’ll continue to press the issue, because thousands of drivers who abuse drugs are out there on the highway,” said Trucking Alliance Managing Director Lane Kidd in an email statement to Transport Dive.

According to a submission to the FMCSA by J.B. Hunt earlier in 2021, hair testing detected evidence of drug use in 7,159 applicants, but over 6,400 of such cases tested negative for drug use using urinalysis. Furthermore, the company suggested that individuals who passed the urine test would have been hired if the carrier had only used the Department of Transportation (DOT) test.

However, opponents of expanding the scope of the reported drug clearinghouse results to include hair testing cite increased costs for smaller carriers to require additional testing. In addition, groups such as the Sikh Coalition and North American Punjabi Trucking Association have argued that this would also lead to potential discrimination based on job applicants’ physical factors, such as individuals with black or brown hair, which could produce a false positive result.

In turn, supporters of the proposal have argued that when companies use urine and hair testing to screen out potential hires for drug use, drivers who fail the latter test can still get jobs with other carriers because businesses are not authorized to share the results of the clearinghouse.

Previously, the FMCSA reported that during the public comment period in August and September 2022, 31 comments showed support for the proposal, while 70 comments opposed it.

Moreover, the FMCSA has already rejected a previous request by the alliance to expand the clearinghouse in 2020, when a law firm representing the companies called for the inclusion of hair drug testing, but FMCSA stated it lacked the statutory authority to do so and denied the request in 2021.