Dear Feds, Stop This Regulation (Editorial)

by Arkansas Business Editors  on Monday, Jul. 1, 2013 12:00 am  

Follicle sampling usually involves cutting or shaving an inch-and-a-half of hair. (Photo by Wesley Hitt)

A picture of a truck driver getting a haircut is not our usual cover art at Arkansas Business, but we put it on the front page last week to call attention to a situation that is just baffling. And scary.

For the past seven years, J.B. Hunt Transport Services of Lowell has gone above and beyond government requirements by testing the hair of driver applicants for long-term use of drugs that the required urine sample just won’t catch.

The vast majority of truckers tested are clean — more than 95 percent, thank God. But more than 3,200 wannabe drivers tested during the past seven years came back positive for drug use — mostly cocaine, but also marijuana and various combinations of those and other controlled substances. Urinalysis caught only 90 of them.

J.B. Hunt rejected those drivers, of course. And federal regulation allows trucking companies to share the results of urinalysis, so the 90 drug users caught that way were not likely to climb into the cab of any other company’s big rig.

But the federal government will not allow J.B. Hunt or other companies that use hair testing (including Maverick Transport of North Little Rock) to share those much more sensitive tests. So more than 3,000 drug users could very easily have gone to work for a company that doesn’t use hair testing, which is twice as expensive as urinalysis — effectively tripling the cost of drug screening.

It might be too much to ask that all driver applicants be hair-tested, although a blanket requirement like that would likely drive down the cost. But it is not too much to ask that the companies that have volunteered to take on the expense of hair testing be able to share the results. No trucking company, big or small, wants to employ drug users. No driver wants them behind the wheel of the biggest vehicles on our roadways.



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