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While all mandatory drug testing for truck drivers is conducted through urinalysis, there may be a change coming in the form of oral fluids or hair clippings. According to a recent study from the University of Central Arkansas, if the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) mandates hair follicle testing, nearly 300,000 truck drivers would be out of a job.

Since federal drug testing of truck drivers began nearly 30 years ago, the Substance Abuse and Mental health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) set the protocol for drug tests that are still used today. Individual agencies with the Department of Transportation (DOT), including FMCSA, need to approve this kind of drug screening for truckers through rulemaking. That rulemaking would determine the drug testing process, including who can collect hair follicles and under what conditions, required training, and sample retention.

Why the Change?

Collecting hair follicles and oral fluids are easier and less intrusive than obtaining a urine sample. Oral fluids samples are less likely to be faked or contaminated because drug testing lab technicians collect them in an open environment. That means sample collection during drug screenings for truckers streamlines the entire process by cutting out the need for sending a driver to a clinic for a urine sample.

The technical standards for hair testing are currently under review. Agency rulemaking for hair testing standards can start after the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approves and considers any required adjustments. When approved, employers and federal regulators would have an effective tool in their toolbelt in weeding out casual drug users who get behind the wheel.

The Impact of Hair Testing

Several trucking companies use hair testing on top of mandated urine tests to get a more accurate reading of past drug use; hair follicle testing shows drug use up to 90 days before a test. However, those trucking carriers do so at their expense. But if everything is approved, this testing is included in a package and cuts down on the overall price. Until FMCSA rulemaking allows hair testing, trucking companies cannot legally share the test results with other employers.

The Goal of Expanding Drug Screenings for Truckers

Expansion of drug screening for truckers conforms with the way things are moving for the FMCSA in strengthening drug and alcohol testing for safety-sensitive roles, such as driving cross country.

The FMCSA has:

  • Added certain synthetic opioids to the drug panel checked by tests.
  • Increased the random drug screening rate.
  • Warned drivers about the use of CBD oil.
  • Unveiled the FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse to capture positive test results and violations and share them with employers and enforcement agencies.
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