OOIDA’s Todd Spencer: There’s no mandate for hair-testing

November 8, 2018

Todd Spencer

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Recently, FreightWaves published an article regarding legislative efforts to mandate hair-testing for our nation’s truck drivers.  I feel compelled to respond in an attempt to address several misleading comments.

First, there is no legislative mandate requiring commercial truck drivers to be hair-tested.  Federal law requires the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in coordination with other federal agencies, to report to Congress on its progress in developing guidelines that might potentially address the use of hair-testing.

Second, the article quotes the managing director of the Alliance for Driver Safety and Security, known as the Trucking Alliance, who makes an irresponsible comment that there is an opioid epidemic in the trucking industry.  He presents no evidence to validate such a comment because there is no evidence to support such a claim.

In fact, positive test results among truck drivers are so low – less than 1 percent actually – that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reduced the percentage of drivers that must be randomly tested.

The article references a 2017 study conducted by the Governors Highway Safety Association that found that 22 percent of drivers tested positive for “some drug medication”.  However, the study does not indicate how many of the individuals who tested positive were truck drivers, nor did it identify the type of medications that were present or what health conditions the medications were prescribed for. Further, it also ignored the fact that the appropriate use of medications to treat medical symptoms can actually improve the well-being of a truck driver and highway safety.

The Trucking Alliance is also quoted – correctly, I might add – as saying that federal law requires potential guidelines to ensure that individuals within the trucking industry who might be exposed to certain drugs do not register a false positive.  However, there is no standard protocol for hair-testing, nor has there been any validated or reliable testing of hair samples allowing SAMSHA to propose guidelines that are scientifically valid. SAMSHA has reported this lack of science-based protocol and should be commended for not bowing to special interest groups promoting tests that could adversely affect drivers based on false information.

In reality, the Trucking Alliance continues to push for mandatory hair-testing to mitigate carriers from liability. While hair-testing can show the presence of various substances in an individual, the Trucking Alliance fails to show how such testing would prove driver impairment while operating a commercial motor vehicle.

I’m confident that the Trucking Alliance will continue to push for hair-testing, speed limiters, increased insurance minimums, and other federal mandates that disadvantage small-business carriers and infringe upon the rights of drivers, while at the same time complaining about a perceived driver shortage. If any group deserves a shortage, it’s them.

Synchrony Financial