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Which type of drug testing is the most effective for fleets?

By Joseph Evangelist

Executive Vice President, Transervice
As originally appeared in FleetOwner Magazine’s IdeaXchange

The Department of Health and Human Services announced that it may be adding fentanyl and methadone to its list of drugs for which some workers – federal employees and truck drivers among them will be tested. However, at a meeting early in March, Ron Flegel, chairman of the Federal Drug Testing Advisory Board, did not comment at all on the pending proposed mandate to use hair samples for federal drug testing.

The proposal for hair samples has been controversial, mainly because of a provision that would require employers to perform urine or oral swab test if a prospective employee tests positive for drugs in a hair sample test. Proponents of hair testing believe it has demonstrated its ability to ferret out a pattern of regular drug use. Oral and urine tests only detect recent use. Some fleets have used hair tests as part of their pre-employment screening as a way to discover drug users who are applying to be drivers. Opponents of the proposal for additional testing say it will just add unneeded expenses to the hiring process.

I think it makes sense to add fentanyl and methadone to the list of drugs that we look for in drug tests of drivers especially given that fentanyl is said to be 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and methadone comes with a warning to be careful driving or operating machinery.

But adding the additional urine test or oral fluid swab just does not make sense to me. In fact, I think it would only serve to create chaos, increase cost, garner pushback from unions and could reduce the number of driver candidates who just don’t want to be subjected to one more test. It seems to me the hair test should be enough to qualify — or disqualify — a driver as fit for duty.

Every fleet is concerned about safety and no fleet owner or manager that I know wants an impaired driver behind the wheel of one of their vehicles. But we also need clarity in determining who is fit and who isn’t. Adding this additional layer of testing really doesn’t accomplish this and serves no purpose. The hair test will tell us what we need to know — if someone has used drugs in the last 90 days. Seems to me if someone wants to drive a truck, they can refrain from using drugs for 90 days — three months — before applying for the job. Why complicate that?

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