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ON THE HORIZON Hair Versus Urine —

The Latest Debate Drug testing could get a lot more in-depth with new legislation on the horizon

BY TODD TRAUB ContributingWriter

In these days of more stringent, trucking

safety regulations and accountability, trucking companies are racing ahead of the federal government to embrace hair follicle testing as a method of drug screening. This form of drug test has met with

support and criticism, with supporters saying it gives a more thorough picture of a driver’s drug use history and detractors saying, among other things, that hair testing is a form of privacy invasion. There is one other problem with hair

testing, said Barry “Spook” Stang, executive vice president of the Motor Carriers of Montana. “You’ve got to have hair to test,” Stang said

jokingly. Assuming the nation’s driver workforce

doesn’t show up bald tomorrow, Stang, turning serious, said a growing number of trucking companies and associations support hair testing, though it has yet to be adopted across the board in Montana. “I know there are some trucking

companies that are doing it,” Stang said. Mandatory, random drug testing of all

commercial license holders is the law. Most employers can also test if there is a reasonable suspicion and employers can also legally test after a workplace accident or to determine if an employee is complying with a drug rehabilitation program. It is the responsibility of theDepartment

of Transportation (DOT) to adopt workplace drug testing protocols and thresholds as designated by theDepartment ofHealth and Human Services (HHS). HHS has only insisted on urine testing,

which meansDOT can only use urinalysis to meet screening requirements. Hair testing has become more widespread

and judicially accepted in recent years, with many trucking companies voluntarily


adopting the screening method. Because drug residue remains in hair longer than in the urinary system, hair testing is coming to be seen as a more accurate measure of a person’s pattern of drug use. While hair testing is still not approved

by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), trucking companies, who must deal with the liability if a driver under the influence has an accident, have embraced hair testing as part of their employment screening programs and the American Trucking Associations also supports it. “I think the position would be that we

would support it,” Stang said of the Motor Carriers of Montana. Estimates and surveys differ, but it is

calculated that between 6-10 percent of driver ISSUE 4, 2013 |

applicants use drugs. That is a huge risk for trucking companies to take and a sobering thought when one considers there are close to 3 million drivers in theUnited States, many of them operating 80,000-pound vehicles. That goes a long way toward explaining

why many in the industry support hair testing. “I think it tightens up the ability for a

trucking company to,No. 1, put a safe driver on the road,” Stang said. “And,No. 2, it reduces your liability.” Hair testing uses biochemical technology

to find microscopic traces of drugs, which can pass out of a person’s urinary system in a matter of days but may remain detectable in hair for months. Stang said efforts to get hair testing

into law in Montana have died in the state legislature, and he noted the FMCSA, despite

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