Transportation companies are now starting to use hair follicle testing as part of their employment drug screening program, as opposed to just the conventional urine test. Industry leaders C.R. England, Gordon Trucking and Roehl Transport are adopting the hair follicle test in hopes of reducing the occurrence of drug-abusing drivers. JB Hunt and Schneider National have already incorporated hair testing in their drug screening program. Supporters of hair follicle testing explain that drivers test positive 12 times more when submitting a hair sample than the mandatory Department of Transportation urinalysis test (tests for marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, opiates, and PCP).
Hair tests can detect drug use up to 45 days after consumption, compared with just three to four days for urinalysis testing. Based on these findings, you would think organizations would make a change in their drug screening process. However, this is not the case. Ben Johnson, Vice President of FleetScreen Ltd, explains that “fewer than 10 of (his) 3,000+ carriers do the hair test.” The main obstacle for many when it comes to adopting a standard hair follicle test policy is cost. That coupled with the fact that DOT requires only urinalysis testing means that, at this point, companies would be duplicating their efforts by conducting both, even if one is more accurate than the other.
What are the chances that the Department of Transportation will change their drug screening protocol? Abigail Potter, a researcher for American Trucking Association (ATA) explains, “ATA doesn’t expect action on hair testing until after a separate review of testing by the Health and Human Services Department.” However, numbers don’t lie. Schneider National conducted 25,000 hair follicle tests last year; 964 of which tested positive—only 82 people failed the simultaneous urinalysis test. It will be interesting to see when the Department of Transpiration decides to transition to hair follicle testing.