New bill lets companies run drug tests on truck drivers' hair

The entire congressional delegation from Arkansas has proposed legislation that would let trucking companies run random drug tests on the hair of their drivers, a move members of Congress and companies say would help make America's highways safer.

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.) introduced the legislation, H.R. 3403, on Wednesday. They say it's needed because under current law, only urine tests are recognized by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for pre-employment drug and alcohol tests.

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They argue that many truck drivers are able to pass the urine test before being hired, and then later fail a hair test, and that this has prompted many companies to explore hair testing as a more reliable alternative.

The legislation would require HHS to issue guidelines for hair testing and allow this method to be used for pre-employment testing and random testing during employment. But the bill would only allow later random tests if hair tests were used at the pre-employment phase.

"My bill establishes hair testing guidelines that will help trucking companies identify drug-abusing drivers," Crawford said Thursday. "More importantly, this bill will allow trucking companies to submit positive hair test results to the national drug and alcohol database to ensure that we keep drug offenders out from behind the wheel of commercial trucks and off our nation's roads."

The bill is supported by the Alliance for Driver Safety & Security, a group that said it supports efforts to keep drug users off the country's highways.

But it is likely to be opposed by others, including the American Civil Liberties Union. In a past report, the ACLU said drug tests obliterate the right to privacy for workers.

"Employers have the right to expect workers not to be high or drunk on the job," the ACLU says on its website. "But they shouldn't have the right to require employees to prove their innocence by taking a drug test. That's not how America should work."