What the FMCSA just decided about hair tests

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Substance abuse disorders are a major safety concern for motor carrier companies. Workers who drink or use drugs are often not forthcoming about those habits and could easily cause expensive crashes while on the job.

Transportation businesses may end up facing large insurance claims or sometimes even civil lawsuits if one of their drivers comes to work while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Especially when there is a history of that worker abusing certain substances, individuals affected by collisions may claim that the employer would have reason to know about the issue and was therefore negligent in hiring someone with a history of alcohol or drug abuse.

Recently, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) made an official decision about the use of hair testing technology for commercial licensing eligibility. What did the FMCSA announce?

Hair tests generally do not influence transportation work

Unlike blood tests and urine tests, which may only detect certain substances for a few hours or several days, hair tests can potentially show drug use several days or even a few weeks ago. Industry associations representing motor carriers have requested authorization to use hair tests as proof of a candidate’s or employee’s potential substance abuse issue.

They wanted to add hair test results to the list of evidence that would constitute actual knowledge of drug abuse and allow employers to take adverse actions against a worker or applicant. However, the FMCSA determined that hair tests would not necessarily count against those who otherwise qualify for a commercial license. Businesses generally still need to rely on urine testing if they want to make justifiable employment decisions based on someone’s alleged history of substance abuse.

Following regulatory changes protects your business

What is standard and acceptable will change over time, and your business could end up with more liability if you don’t remain informed about those changes. From the possibility of a worker or applicant suing your organization for discrimination to the risk of being held accountable for an individual employee’s substance abuse disorder, there are many ways in which policy about mind-altering substances could affect your company’s operations.

Complying with current transportation industry rules and prioritizing safety will help protect your business from financial and legal liability.