Currently, the FMCSA and its clearinghouse only accept urine tests for drugs and alcohol in its 50% random testing requirement. Now, safety experts are advocating for using hair testing instead. Is it a good idea to adopt this new method? There are tons of arguments for it, and one big argument against it.
Pro: Ease of Testing for the Driver
A urinalysis can be an ordeal of approximately 15 minutes, where the applicant has to use the restroom and turn in his results. A hair extraction instead can take but a minute on the behalf of the driver. Simply walk in, have hair plucked by tweezers, sign some paperwork, and be off.
Pro: Impossible to Cheat
Cheating urinalysis tests have been the subject of many adult sitcoms. Most of the issue comes from the standard of privacy during the urinalysis test. While the applicant is alone, he can perform some shady tactics to evade the test. With a hair retrieval, cheating is effectively impossible, unless someone were to graft another’s hair to his own head and made sure those hairs were the ones picked for testing. It is not very feasible, to say the least.
Pro: Wider Time Range Tested
Urinalysis can test for drugs and alcohol in the system taken up to three or four days prior. Particles in the hair, in contrast, can last a month. This naturally increases the number of positive results. Maverick Transportation conducted 10,000 simultaneous tests of hair and urine, and found 324 positives from hair and only 18 from urine samples. Not accounting for instances of false positives, this means that over 3% of people tested took drugs before the 3-4 day window but within a month before testing.
Con: Effectiveness Unknown
While there is no doubt to the fact that driving under the influence drastically increases the chances of a trucking accident, testing on accident rates for people who have taken drugs or alcohol weeks or even a month prior is inconclusive. Is a month enough of a time for the body to flush out enough toxins that it has no impact on the mind? This subject needs more research before the FMCSA implements it; if drugs do not impact the brain beyond the first few days of consumption, then in the case of Maverick Transportation, they lost what would otherwise be 304 perfectly capable drivers. With the supposed trucker shortage, that is not an insignificant number of would-be drivers.
What are your thoughts on this potential upcoming change to drug testing? Should it be implemented soon for its potential benefits, or should more testing be done to see if the trace amounts found in hair have any impact on driving? Let us know your comments below.