In a joint letter to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, 17 organizations urged the committee to reject hair testing for federal drug tests.
The letter requested that hair specimen testing be removed from the DRIVE Act in the Senate and the Drug Free Commercial Driver Act in the House until the validity and reliability of the testing method could be determined by the Department of Health and Human Services.
“Instead of allowing the experts at HHS to determine whether scientific and forensic evidence supports the use of hair specimen testing, these legislative proposals arbitrarily grant motor carriers the ability to use this unsubstantiated method of testing,” the groups stated in the letter.
The letter called into question hair testing, citing instances where hair specimens can deliver false positives for individuals who had only been exposed to illegal substances but never actually ingested. It also brought up the possibility of carriers being labeled “less safe” for using urine testing instead of hair testing.
“The process Congress established years ago has created drug testing standards that are not only effective, but scientifically and forensically sound,” the groups stated. “Any changes to these standards must be backed by similar evidential support carefully studied by the experts with such authority.”
Proponents of hair testing contend that hair urinalysis is less effective at detecting substance abuse because evidence of use has a longer window of detection in hair and it's harder to cheat on the test. The American Truck Associations and the group The Trucking Alliance both backed hair testing in March of this year.
"ATA is committed to improving highway safety, including doing all we can to prevent individuals who use drugs or alcohol from driving trucks," said ATA president and CEO Bill Graves. "ATA's advocacy [of mandatory drug and alcohol testing] has resulted in a steady decline in the small percentage of drivers who use drugs, and hair testing is the next logical step."
However, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is on record as criticizing the measure, saying the current urine-based standards are working fine and there's no reason to pursue hair testing as an alternative.
The groups that signed the letter were:
- American Civil Liberties Union
- Association of Flight Attendants-CWA
- Air Line Pilots Association
- American Medical Review Officers, LLC
- American Train Dispatchers Association
- Amalgamated Transit Union
- Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen
- International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
- International Brotherhood of Teamsters
- Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action
- Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice
- National Air Traffic Controllers Association
- National Workrights Institute
- Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers-Transportation Division
- Sailors’ Union of the Pacific
- Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO
- Transport Workers Union of America
- United Steelworkers