Drug testing is an essential tool for law enforcement to make sure that truck drivers hauling up to 80,000 pounds of vehicle and cargo travel safely. At this time, truck drivers have to take periodic drug tests by submitting urine samples. The tests are completely random. Laboratories could test for drivers’ urine for cocaine, opiates, marijuana, and amphetamines, among other illicit narcotics. Urinalysis does not provide a reliable test for alcohol.
Urinalysis is limited, however. Urine testing could be tampered with and also is not sensitive enough to prove when a driver took a drug if a positive result occurs. As a result, federal regulators proposed new drug testing that is more conducive to pinpointing when the driver ingested the drugs and is tamper-proof.
Drug testing by taking hair samples has numerous advantages over urinalysis. First, hair sample testing is sensitive enough to detect drugs consumed up to 90 days before testing. With urinalysis, marijuana could be detected up to 30 days after ingestion. By contrast, urinalysis cannot detect cocaine after three days and opiates after two. Therefore, trucking companies will not know if their drivers have a substance abuse problem if tests come up negative. Chronic drug abuse has other symptoms like tardiness for work, missing shifts, and poor performance, but trucking companies require evidence to be able to flag the driver who needs help beating an addiction.
The other benefit of hair sample testing lies in the integrity of the results. Hair follicles are collected and analyzed at a lab. Thus, the driver has no way to cheat the test. With urinalysis, drivers could take diuretics to clean the pollutants from their kidneys or even sneak in substitute urine while providing a sample.
Commercial truck drivers must provide a drug test within 32 hours of a fatal crash. Hair testing will provide an accurate and more reliable result in that instance. Interestingly, trucking companies could delay testing if the victim did not immediately succumb to the injuries inflicted in the truck accident. Hair testing would permit a longer window to the driver’s past to see if drugs impaired the driver’s capacity to drive a commercial truck safely.
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