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Wednesday, January 18, 2017
Six major motor carriers have filed a request with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for an exemption from current federal regulations in order to allow hair analysis in lieu of urine testing for pre-employment controlled substances testing of commercial driver’s license holders.
The six are: J.B. Hunt Transport, Schneider, Werner Enterprises, Knight Transportation, Dupré Logistics and Maverick Transportation.
According to a Federal Register notice to be published Thursday, the six carriers currently conduct pre-employment urine testing that satisfies the Department of Transportation’s requirements as well as hair analysis separate from the DOT controlled substances and alcohol testing program.
According to the exemption notice, the applicants believe their data “. . . demonstrate that hair analysis is a more reliable and comprehensive basis for ensuring detection of controlled substance use” and that the exemption would enable these fleets to discontinue pre-employment urine testing.
FMCSA is requesting public comments on the carriers’ application.
Under the exemption, the carriers would conduct pre-employment tests using hair analysis only, rather than hair analysis in addition to urine testing, and individuals with negative test results would be permitted to perform safety-sensitive functions for the employer. Individuals testing positive would not be allowed to perform safety-sensitive functions until the drivers completed the return-to-duty process as spelled out in FMCSA regulations.
In addition, the applicants would share the positive hair testing results with prospective employers in response to safety performance inquiries, according to the Federal Register notice.
Last October, transportation companies (all of the above carriers except Werner) affiliated with The Alliance for Driver Safety & Security, known as the Trucking Alliance petitioned FMCSA to allow hair testing in lieu of a urinalysis to comply with pre-employment drug testing regulations for truck drivers, but did not formally request an exemption. The FMCSA, however, is subservient to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of the Department of Health and Human Services, in the area of testing for controlled substance abuse, and likely could not grant such as exemption without SAMHSA’s approval.
“Maverick has had 108 people apply for truck driver positions who cleared the mandatory urine
exam but failed our hair test,” said Steve Williams, president of the Trucking Alliance and
Chairman and CEO of Maverick Transportation, when the petition was filed last year. “We denied them employment, but they likely found work at other trucking companies because we can’t share those positive hair test results with those businesses.”
“We have a responsibility to the general public that our industry’s drivers are drug and alcohol
free,” said Williams. “But this loophole enables drug users to skirt the system.”
According to the petition, hair exams are more reliable than a urinalysis.
For example, Psychemedics, a leading hair testing laboratory, estimates that 85 percent of the drug users identified by its hair testing process would be missed by a urinalysis, the Alliance said in a news release.
The process and deadline for filing comments will be included in the Federal Register notice Thursday.
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