Rewrite of hair drug-testing guidelines sent to White House

May 2, 2023

Earlier in April, a rewrite of a rule proposed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services setting standards for using hair for drug testing of truck drivers has been received by the White House for review.

Specifically, the review is carried out by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), with the OIRA being required to evaluate the guidelines within 90 days.

According to OIRA, the review is designed to “[help] to promote adequate interagency review of draft proposed and final regulatory actions, so that such actions are coordinated with other agencies to avoid inconsistent, incompatible, or duplicative policies.”

If the proposed guidelines become approved, they would be used as the foundation for a proposed rule by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

Several trucking companies have called for uniformity for hair drug testing, and have criticized the initial proposal, which was not approved, for not being strict enough since it still allowed other testing options.

In addition, major carriers including J.B. Hunt and Schneider National have requested to rely solely on hair testing instead of also being required to carry out drug tests on urine or saliva. Moreover, they have stated that requiring a second alternative specimen test to confirm a test in the case where a driver tests positive using hair, as proposed in the initial guidelines, would make the roads less safe since research studies have shown that the drug detection window of hair is longer.

Furthermore, smaller businesses and labor unions have also cited privacy and cost concerns, among others, associated with introducing hair to federal workplace drug-testing requirements.

“Just because a small percentage of trucking companies opt to screen their drivers using hair testing does not mean the process should be mandated for the entire industry,” said Todd Spencer, president and CEO of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, earlier in 2020 upon the first proposal.

“Companies that must resort to extreme measures to compensate for excessive turnover rates may find hair testing appropriate; however, that does not mean their methods, which are not standardized, should be mandated.”