At the end of October, President Trump signed into law a package focused on curbing the misuse of opioids. Included in the legislation, was a provision requiring that the Department of Health and Human Services update Congress on the status of hair testing by December 24. The update is required to include a schedule, with benchmarks, for the completed guidance.
The History of the DOT and Hair Testing
The FAST Act Highway Bill in 2015 called for DOT to recognize hair sample drug tests as an alternative to urine tests. HHS was required to produce guidelines for how the tests should be conducted. Almost two years after the deadline, motor carriers are still waiting.
What’s the current status?
The chairman of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Drug Testing Advisory Board, Ron Flegel, recently advised at a December 4thmeeting, that the hair proposal has been reviewed by HHS operational division and the next step would be a review from more than a hundred federal agencies. The proposal will also need to be reviewed by the Department of Transportation and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Flegel also reported that HHS is nearing completion of the final approval for mandatory oral fluid guidelines for drug testing.
What should employers do?
While we have seen an uptick of carriers using hair testing in addition to urine testing in recent years, federal law still only allows urine tests. Employers should continue as they are until the final chapter is written. We will continue to provide updates as this winds its way through the approval process.
Reminder: DOT has updated random drug testing rates to 50% for 2019. Alcohol testing rates remain at 10%.