By Richard Shapiro, Virginia Trucking Accident Attorney
The American Trucking Association wants truckers to be drug tested using hair-follicle testing, which is considered by many to be more accurate than urinalysis.
However, the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department wants Congress to reject hair-follicle testing, stating that the technology is ‘an unsubstantiated method.’
Big trucking companies such as JB Hunt Transport Services already use hair-follicle testing to screen trucker driver applicants. However, the Department of Transportation standard requires urine tests.
Hair-follicle testing can detect drug use over a three month period, whereas a urine test only can detect drug use in the previous few days.
Hair-follicle testing is not recognized by DOT as an alternative to urine tests. Also, a positive hair test cannot be reported to employers at this time.
The American Trucking Association wants that to change and is asking Congress to pass the Drug Free Commercial Driver Act. The bill would order DOT to issue new rules that allow hair follicle testing to be an alternative to urine testing for trucking companies.
The result would likely be fewer job applicants at trucking companies, and some current drivers would be disqualified from working.
Labor groups state that hair testing can cause false positive results. It could be that the trucker was exposed to drug use but never actually ingested the drugs himself, and the hair test does not know the difference.
Our team of attorneys in Virginia work on many truck accident cases. In 2008, there were 4229 fatal truck crashes in the US, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. There also were 90,000 people injured by trucks in that year.
Many of these accidents could have been prevented and were due to some type of truck driver error. In many cases, driver fatigue led to a deadly crash with an innocent driver. In other cases, drug and alcohol abuse were contributing factors in these accidents.
It seems reasonable that trucking companies should be able to drug test their drivers with something other than a urine test. It would be useful to know if the truck driver has been possibly using drugs in the past 90 days. It would be quite easy for a driver to stop using drugs for a week, and then have a negative urine test. It’s harder to do that with a test that provides 90 days of results.