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Truck Driver Hair Testing Could Save Lives

In May 2006, J.B. Hunt implemented a new drug screening policy which has kept more than 3,200 applicant drivers from employment. The new policy requires applicants to undergo hair follicle testing, in addition to, the urinary testing required by the Department of Transportation.

Currently, hair follicle testing is not a method of testing accepted by the DOT. While companies are free to implement stricter tests than the DOT requires, they may not share the results of these more revealing tests with other companies. Unfortunately, this means that drivers who fail a non-accepted DOT test may still find employment elsewhere without a finding of drug use following them on their record. This fact can be frightening especially when considering that of the 3,200 applicants who failed the hair follicle test at J.B. Hunt, only 90 also failed the DOT-accepted urinary test. That left a lot of drivers with unreported drug use.

Advocacy groups are pushing the DOT for regulatory or legislative changes to allow for such testing and the reporting of the hair follicle test results. Greer Woodruff, vice president of safety and security at J.B. Hunt, said, "[W]e think if more companies could do hair testing and share the results, we could move these people off the roads and out of commercial vehicles." Hair follicle tests detect a larger array of drugs and can determine if drug use occurred up to a three month period before the hair sample is collected. When compared to urinary tests, which can only detect some drugs if used 48 hours prior, the follicle test is a large improvement. There may be some push back from those in the industry as hair follicle tests generally costs twice as much as urinary tests which are about $45; however, most should support having safer drivers on the road which will likely decrease costs in the long run.

If you own a trucking company, consider getting ahead of the curve and adopting hair follicle testing as part of your hiring process. At the very least, be prepared for changes in DOT regulations in the near future.

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