Some motor carriers are using hair testing in addition to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) approved urine-based drug test. Under current regulations positive results from the urine test are reported to the Clearinghouse. Positive results from hair testing cannot be reported but can be used by the motor carrier as part of their hiring decision process.
Motor carriers utilizing dual testing have found that a driver can test negative on the urine test, but positive on the hair test. That’s because our bodies metabolize the drugs fairly quickly, sometimes in a matter of a few days. At that point the person will test negative. However, hair testing gives a much longer “look back” period which accounts for the discrepancy between urine and hair tests taken at the same time.
FMCSA has received an application for an exemption from The Trucking Alliance, a group of motor carriers. They’re asking FMCSA to amend the definition of “actual knowledge of drug use” to include the employer’s knowledge of a driver’s positive hair test. Making this change would then require the results be reported to the Clearinghouse.
Although FMCSA lacks the statutory authority to grant the Trucking Alliance’s request for exemption until the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has taken certain action, FMCSA is requesting public comment on the exemption application.
The 2015 transportation bill allows hair testing for drugs as a DOT approved method, and the bill mandated that those guidelines be developed within a year. However, HHS did not publish the proposed guidelines until late 2020, and has not issued a final version. Until then, FMCSA cannot take action or even grant the requested exemption.