Proposed hair testing rule raises questions

By Joseph Evangelist

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

I’m guessing that we all have read or heard about the proposed rule that would authorize the use of hair samples for drug testing drivers of commercial vehicles. This proposal was recently forwarded to the Federal Register for publication.

Not everyone is on board with the proposal and many are concerned about a lack of transparency surrounding this proposed change to the way drivers are tested for drugs. This suggested new rule has been in the works since 2015 but has been delayed because of some scientific questions about hair color and other issues.

From what I’ve read, hair testing is probably a more accurate way to gauge drug use, that said, I wonder what this kind of testing will do to an industry that is struggling with the driver and technician shortage.

Frankly, I have some residual questions about exactly how it would work. For example, how would we handle a prospective or present employee who undergoes a pre-employment or random test in which we discover through hair testing that he/she has evidence of drug use some time ago but they are not under the influence when they were tested? Does it disqualify a prospective candidate? Do we discipline a current employee? The timing of the event would be hard to pinpoint.

Also, currently, we have to collect urine samples for testing before, after or during an individual performing safety-sensitive duties to determine if we have to remove them from service. But, again, I wonder what happens if the evidence points to drug use some weeks ago, but not at the time of the test. What do you do with that information?

There are also issues surrounding getting a quality sample from someone with very short hair or someone who is bald or shaves their head. How will these situations be handled?

While I do not want to be a naysayer when it comes to using hair samples to test for drugs — in many ways it is a good method since it cannot easily be adulterated — I do hope the new rule will provide guidance on some of the questions I have. I am sure that I am not the only one looking for some clarity on this issue.

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