Hair testing for drugs would ground truckers

According to the results of a new study published by the University of Central Arkansas (UCA), nearly 300,000 truck drivers would be out of a job if the The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) mandates hair strand testing. The study was conducted by UCA Professors, Doug Voss and Joe Cangelosi, and was sponsored by the Trucking Alliance.

“I’m always surprised when someone would get out on the road in an 80,000-pound truck and be high on some sort of illicit substance,” said Voss in his interview with Talk Business & Politics. “To find out that there are nearly 300,000 truck drivers on the road that should not be on the road if we just used a different test is really surprising and a little scary.”

The study has found that existing urine testing methods are not as reliable as they should be and “[are] often invalid.”

“Evidence exists that the existing urine testing regimen may be less effective than we all hope,” the study states. “Urine tests generally have a two-three-day look-back period. This means truck drivers could refrain from drug use for three days, pass a scheduled pre-employment urine test, then begin driving and using drugs again.”

According to the researchers, current urine testing protocols can detect drug use over the previous 3-4 days, while hair testing can detect drug use over the previous 30 days.

“To ensure the safety of our roadways, the U.S. government requires all drivers to pass urinalysis drug screens. However, urinalysis drug screens are easily thwarted and some trucking companies use hair drug screens, a more stringent test. This research examines trucking industry data and finds about 300,000 truck drivers would be removed from their positions if forced to pass a hair drug test. Hair testing opponents argue that the test is biased against ethnic minority groups. Comparing urine and hair pass/fail rates for various ethnic groups, our results indicate ethnic groups are significantly different irrespective of testing procedure. Factors other than testing method seem to underlie ethnic group pass/fail rate differences,” the study reads.

According to Lane Kidd, managing director of the Alliance for Driver Safety and Security (also referred to as the Trucking Alliance), the trucking industry “has almost a moral obligation” to meet the hair testing standards. However, hair testing has been opposed by several groups, including unions and civil liberty associations, due to concerns of a racial bias.

Specifically, the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) has released a briefing which argues against hair testing: “Studies have indicated that hair testing for controlled substances has a bias toward hair color and texture, particularly for those individuals with darker hair.”

However, the Trucking Alliance argues that urine tests are prone to being tampered with and falsified. “Hair testing serves as a deterrent to even get applications from truck drivers who are lifestyle drug users,” said Kidd.

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