Last updated: February 24, 2020
The United States Senate has approved a bill that requires the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to explain why there was a delay in giving state required hair follicle drug test guidelines for motor carriers. This legislation was introduced by Senator John Thune who is the chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. The bill mandates HHS to hand in progress reports on hair testing 30 days after the bills’ approval and form a schedule for finalization of drug testing guidelines.
Hair follicle test provision is part of the legislation meant to give the prevention and treatment of opioid disorder. The HHS is also called on to provide state oral fluid testing regulations, examine the probability of including a state drug testing committee and expand drug test guidelines for some rail workers. Senators passed the Fighting Opioid Abuse in Transportation Act by a solid vote of 99-1 in September 2017.
2015 FAST Act transportation bill, which was enacted by former President Obama, requested the Secretary in charge of Health and Human Services to provide scientific and technical regulations for hair follicle testing as a way for monitoring the use of drugs by December 4th in 2016. However, this deadline was missed as a result of scientific and technical issues. The legislation requires for hair testing to be a DOT-approved procedure, but for this to happen, HHS must form hair follicle drug test guidelines first.
ATA’s support for the approved senate bill
American Trucking Associations (ATA) strongly supports the U.S Senate in passing the bill that is aimed at curbing the Opioid crisis in the United States. The legislation has provisions on hair follicle drug testing which the American Trucking Associations has for long pushed for and worked hand in hand with the Senate Commerce Committee to put in place in the bill.
“We thank Senator Thune and his staff for their continued persistence and commitment on this issue of hair testing. Our fleets need to depend on, and need the government to recognize, the most accurate, reliable and fail-safe drug testing methods available. The time has come to get this done.” Bill Sullivan, the executive vice president in charge of advocacy from the American Trucking Associations, stated.
This bill requires the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to submit reports to the Congress on any development in providing requirements for a hair follicle drug test. After enactment of the legislation, the Secretary of Health and Human Services is to report within a period of thirty days to the Commerce Committee on the progress of hair follicle drug testing regulations, give an explanation as to why there was a delay in giving out the guidelines, and make a schedule (including benchmarks and delivery date) for fulfillment of the set guidelines. Furthermore, the legislation entails reporting guidelines on the status of the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse and a set date for finalizing oral fluids tests.
Hair follicle drug testing of truck drivers
Urinalysis falls under the controlled substance testing guidelines required by the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration). Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is of the opinion that there is no need for a change in the way things are currently done. A lot of large fleets carry out hair and urine drug testing on their employees. The Trucking Alliance suggested for truck drivers to undergo hair follicle drug testing.
Federal law states that trucking companies should drug test any new drivers and conduct random drug tests on their existing drivers. Hair follicle drug testing has inherent advantages such as giving the employers a prolonged detection window, better collections and findings are more difficult to adulterate.
Companies that support hair follicle drug tests are of the opinion that they bring more accurate test results. Urinalysis shows less than one month’s worth of drug abuse history whereas hair testing indicates up to three months’ worth of drug use history. Moreover, this testing procedures make it harder for participants to cheat as the samples are taken personally by a collection specialist in plain view.
While some concern has been raised regarding the extra cost, a lot of fleet owners say that this is the best method to prevent dangerous drivers from driving on the roads.