J. B. Hunt Transport Services top safety official, Greer Woodruff, recently reported that they had achieved more accurate results from testing hair samples of drivers than urine samples for drug use.
According to the company, 866 drivers applied for a job (in a one year period which ended in 2007) and 9.22% of drivers tested positive for drugs based on the hair sample, and only 1.59%, of the same group, tested positive through a urinalysis. J.B. Hunt stated hair testing is more appropriate for pre-employment hiring and a urinalysis is more appropriate for a post accident and reasonable cause testing.
While a hair test does not detect recent use (it takes 5-7 days for the hair to grow enough to be tested) it is much better at detecting a history of drug use. Additionally the hair sample test is dramatically harder to cheat on than a urinalysis, while giving lawful driver’s more dignity in the testing process. In J. B. Hunt’s case 66 drivers were detected with a history of illegal drug use that would otherwise have been on the highways. It is hard to think of how many dangerous tractor trailer drivers are on the road when these figures are extrapolated out across the trucking industry.
J. B. Hunt should be commended for using this common test to ensure its drivers are free from drug use. The scary part is, in companies that don’t use a hair test to detect illegal drugs, approximately 8% of tractor trailer drivers should not be hired due to drug abuse. The American Trucking Association commissioned a study in May of 2005 that found there were 1.3 million truck drivers in the United States. If 8% are unfit to drive, that means there are 104,000 drivers on the roads of America that have a history of drug use and should not be behind the wheel of an 80,000 pound tractor trailer.
These drivers are also the drivers most likely to abuse over-the-counter and prescription drugs as well as the illegal drugs that a hair test reveals. They are also far more likely to be in a collision. Trucking companies know this and frequently fail to have their drivers submit to a mandatory, post accident, drug test as a result. They roll the dice that this information won’t come to light in a jury trial, and that a jury will dismiss this failure as something that "just happened" because of everything "going on."
The trucking industry is aware of JB Hunt’s results with hair testing, they were announced at a conference and were widely reported in the industry. Time will tell if other companies try to make the roads safer by using hair tests or if they would rather risk the lives of Americans for the sake of moving more freight for a few more dollars. Truly putting profits over people.
The source of this article was Transportation Topics, November 5, 2007, Page 27