Truckers Caught In The Cross”HAIRS” Of New Law To Combat Opiod Abuse, But Are Challenges On The Way?
Washington, D.C. – President Trump signed sweeping new bi-partisan legislation on Wednesday to combat America’s growing health crisis of addiction to opiod drugs.
In a signing ceremony from the White House President Trump said, “Together we are going to end the scourge of drug addiction, or at least make an extremely big dent in this terrible, terrible problem.” The legislation, known as the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, has more than 70 bills contained within it.
The broad legislative package includes funding that requires the Food and Drug Administration to provide prescription opioid pills in smaller quantities and funding that offers an incentive to the National Institutes of Health to prioritize the development of non-addictive painkillers.
The package also includes Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman’s Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention Act “STOP” Act, which establishes guidelines to crack down on shipments of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, from entering the U.S.
What’s The Impact On Trucking?
Most notably for trucking, the new legislation paves the way for the allowance of carriers to remain federally compliant in the pre-employment CDL driver drug screening process by performing only hair follicle testing, instead of the required urinalysis. The Secretary of Health and Human Services must now report within 60 days to the Senate Commerce and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committees on the status for hair testing guidelines.
You may recall the FAST Act, passed in 2015, called for the U.S. DOT to recognize hair follicle tests for truck drivers as an alternative to urinalysis testing, but only after DHS provided guidelines for the proper administering protocols for the tests. The FAST Act allowed DHS one year to develop the proposed guidelines. DHS has yet to do so. This new legislation once again requires DHS to complete this task and also provide the reasons for the delay in doing so.
Big Win For The American Trucking Associations And The Trucking Alliance
The American Trucking Associations (ATA) and The Trucking Alliance have both been advocating for quite some time the benefits of hair testing as a more accurate way to detect drug use among CDL drivers. You may recall back in 2016 when The Trucking Alliance first requested an exemption from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for the recognition of hair testing results in lieu of urinalysis testing. The group also argued it was too costly to perform both tests in the driver screening process and that the adoption of hair follicle testing would dramatically improve safety results and, thus lower insurance costs.
It seems only a matter of time now that hair follicle testing will become federally recognized as a viable means of pre-employment drug screening. You can be sure the next bite at the apple will be these groups demanding lawmakers require all carriers to be required to perform hair follicle screenings.
Constitutional Challenges Are On The Way
As Transportation Nation Network has reported, there is concern among critics that hair follicle testing is unconstitutional in that it disproportionately affects certain minority groups. False positive tests are much more common with hair follicle testing, and certain minority groups are even more susceptible to false positive tests, according to critics. This is due in-part because of the genetic traits of their hair and results in “disparate impact” which is a violation of Title 7 under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Other critics argue hair follicle testing is a violation of certain religious convictions as some religions require adherents to keep their hair uncut. This, they say, is religious discrimination.
Two recent court cases could be landmark rulings in the battle over the constitutionality of hair follicle testing. Read more about these cases and why we expect the challenges to hair follicle testing to mount in the courts. There is little doubt this issue will make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court and will most likely be settled there.
Senate Passes Bill Advancing ATA, The Alliance Wish List Regarding Hair Follicle Testing… But Not-So-Fast