Hair Testing File photo
More than 301,000 commercial truck drivers would fail or refuse a hair screening for illegal drugs, according to the Trucking Alliance.

Are illegal drugs trucking's biggest safety issue?

Trucking Alliance calls on federal government to finalize guidelines for hair screenings

The Trucking Alliance called illegal drug use among commercial drivers the greatest safety issue facing the industry, and again asked the federal government to allow fleets to conduct hair testing.

The advocacy group represents some of the nation’s largest motor carriers including J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Knight-Swift Transportation Holdings and U.S. Xpress Enterprises.

Lane Kidd, managing director of the Trucking Alliance, submitted written testimony to the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit as part of a hearing last week focused on trucking issues. Kidd was previously president of the Arkansas Trucking Association.

The Alliance asked Congress to pressure the Department of Health and Human Services to complete hair test guidelines, so the Department of Transportation can formally recognize hair testing for pre-employment screening. DOT only recognizes urinalysis for testing, but some carriers also require hair screenings.

As part of the testimony, the Alliance detailed statistics it said shows that thousands of drug users are obtaining jobs as truck drivers.

The group compared the pre-employment drug test results of 151,662 truck driver applicants who were asked to submit to two drug tests – urinalysis and hair analysis. Almost all applicants held an active commercial license. Wile 94% of the applicants tested drug free, thousands failed either or both drug tests.

The urinalysis detected drugs in 949 applicants, or about 1% of the overall pool. However, 8,878 (8.6%) driver applicants failed or refused the hair test.

“Put another way, the urinalysis missed 9 out of 10 actual illicit drug users,” said the Alliance. The results also show that 301,000 commercial truck drivers across the industry would fail to refuse a hair screening test. 

The most prevalent drug was cocaine, followed by opioids and marijuana.

“Applicants who failed or refused the hair test were disqualified for employment at these companies, but likely obtained the same job elsewhere, at companies that administer only a urinalysis," said the Alliance.

The Alliance added that until DOT recognizes hair testing, employers cannot submit those failures into the pending drug and alcohol clearinghouse designed to prevent drug users from getting a driving job with another fleet.

Also as part of its written testimony, the Alliance recommended:

- Eliminating exemptions allowing fleets to avoid installing electronic logging devices (ELDs).

- Requiring a person to be at least 21 years of age to operate a commercial vehicle in interstate commerce.

- Mandating a new federal safety standard that would require all large commercial trucks to maintain a maximum speed limit of 65 mph on the nation’s highways.

- Requiring collision mitigation systems installed in commercial trucks.

“More truck drivers lost their lives in 2017, than in any year in the previous 10 years. We must aggressively address these tragic figures,” Steve Williams, chairman and CEO of Maverick USA said in a statement.

Williams is a co-founder of the Trucking Alliance. Its member companies own and operate 70,000 tractors, and more than 220,000 trailers and containers combined.

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