New drug testing guidelines sent to White House for review

April 18, 2023

Ryan Witkowski


Changes to the guidelines for federal workplace drug testing programs, including the possible inclusion of hair testing, could be on the horizon.

On March 31, the U.S. Department of Health and Services’ proposed rulemaking regarding the use of hair samples to test for drugs was sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review.

With the proposed rulemaking now moving to the next phase of the regulatory process, it will still be months before the department’s proposed guidelines on hair testing are made public.

Jay Grimes, director of government affairs for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, says the group will be have a keen eye on what might be included in those possible changes.

“This indicates the Department of Health and Human Services is one step closer to publishing final hair testing guidelines for federal workplace drug testing programs, including truckers that comply with U.S. Department of Transportation regulations,” Grimes told Land Line. “We will be monitoring if HHS intends to mandate any hair testing policies or if this proposal will stick to guidelines.”

The Association has been adamantly opposed to hair testing mandates for some time, citing concerns over its efficacy as well as biases for hair color and texture. While it is still unknown whether or not the proposed guidelines will include mandating hair testing, Grimes says the Association is prepared to voice its concerns regarding its possible inclusion.

“OOIDA maintains our opposition to any mandate because of various reliability and accuracy concerns relating to hair testing procedures. We are planning to meet with Office of Management and Budget in the coming weeks to further detail these concerns,” Grimes said.

Urinalysis satisfies the current drug and alcohol testing requirements by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. However, many large fleets currently require their employees to undergo hair and urine testing. Both the American Trucking Associations and Trucking Alliance have pushed for FMCSA to require hair testing as a method for detecting the use of a controlled substance. The agency has repeatedly denied that request.

Despite the continued push by ATA and the Trucking Alliance, OOIDA contends there is no evidence to support the allowance of hair testing in the federal guidelines.

“The Trucking Alliance has yet to demonstrate that they have experienced a reduction in crash rate since their voluntary adoption of hair testing,” the OOIDA Foundation wrote in its one-pager on the topic. “Neither have they presented evidence showing that their hair testing labs meet the rigorous standards of scientific methodology for testing or that their hair testing equipment and protocol has been consistent and unbiased.”

As for the next steps, once Health and Services releases its guidelines, the U.S. Department of Transportation still will have to go through the rulemaking process before applying the guidelines to truck drivers. Land Line will continue to monitor this story throughout the process. LL