Hair Follicle Drug Testing Inches Closer to Federal Approval

Earlier this month, President Obama signed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, a law that funds improvements to the nation’s transportation infrastructure.

The FAST Act also directs the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to author guidelines for hair follicle testing for drugs for commercial motor vehicle drivers within one year of Act’s enactment. This will enable motor carriers covered by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, a subsidiary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, to use hair testing for drugs (instead of urinalysis) under certain circumstances.

Hair testing can detect drug use within 90 days or more. However, because hair grows slowly, it is not useful for reasonable suspicion or post-accident drug testing.

Last summer, HHS published Oral Fluid Mandatory Guidelines in the Federal Register. MSEC anticipates that oral fluid testing will also be available to motor carriers as an alternative to urinalysis in the near future. With respect to marijuana, oral fluids testing has the shortest “look-back” period of any testing methodology, but offers major advantages for ease of use and direct-observation testing.