Hair Testing…Why?

July 29, 2015

A couple months ago an ACT driver called the Tennessee Highway Patrol.  He complained that people had been on his catwalk talking all day.  The astute troopers arranged to meet this driver.  They met, and to no surprise, there were no people on his catwalk.  Obviously, he was hearing voices.  They asked the driver if he was on anything.  “Meth,” he replied.  They found meth, cocaine and paraphernalia in his truck. He was arrested, terminated, the truck, trailer and load impounded and we were left puzzled, scared and trying to figure out what to do.

When I heard this, it chilled me to the bone.  We discovered this driver had been with us for a year.  He passed drug testing in orientation.  He seemed to be a good driver.  He didn’t look like a drug user. Our policy regarding drugs and alcohol has been a “no tolerance” policy for many years.  Any drug or alcohol related incident results in immediate termination.  Drugs, alcohol and trucking do not mix.  We had no clue we had a drug user in our fleet.  Perhaps we were naive.

This caused 59 CSA points on ACT.  But the implications are much worse.  I thought of the ramifications of this for a long time.  They are simply horrible.  A bad wreck caused by a driver on illegal drugs or alcohol could put any trucking company out of business.  Lots of people would be hurt and lots would lose their jobs.

But what can we do?  We are “by the book.”  We follow the law.  We have everyone in orientation do a urine test.  We do 60% random urine tests of our current drivers, more than required by law.  Could we do more?  Ridiculously, under the law, we cannot do more without a legally defined, “reasonable suspicion.”  We follow regulations, but regulations often lack common sense.  Privacy concerns sometimes trump safety.  The FMCSA is working on regulations for hair testing and for a drug and alcohol data bank to warn us who may be a problem.  But they are slow and it is not there yet.

I determined to make sure this never happens again.  We checked into hair follicle testing.  It is easy, safe, and more reliable than urine sample testing required by FMCSA.  It does costs us more, but if we can ensure our drivers are free of illegal drugs and alcohol, the price is worth it.

Accordingly, starting on July 1, 2015 all applicants in orientation undergo hair testing in addition to urine testing.  All random drug and alcohol tests include this as well.  We tell prospective applicants up front what to expect.  We have already caught another driver.

Some may find this intrusive, but it is a small price to pay for a true drug and alcohol free company where drivers can be proud of the safety and professionalism of all they associate with.  The office folks undergo the same testing.  In the long tradition of ACT, this is the right thing to do.  This directly reflects our core values of integrity and safety:  “Doing the right thing even when no one is watching,” and, “Going above and beyond what the law requires.”

As has always been the case, at ACT, we are raising the standard.

Happy and safe trucking!  Tom

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