WASHINGTON — In a letter to the leadership of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), together with member unions and coalition partners, is urging lawmakers to follow established protocol for developing federal drug testing procedures and exclude provisions for hair specimen testing from any House surface transportation bill.
Historically, experts at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have determined how and when new drug testing procedures should be administered. Those guidelines are then used by the Department of Transportation (DOT) to create federal drug testing standards for bus and truck drivers, and other transportation employees.
HHS has not determined whether hair is a valid and reliable specimen for use in federal drug tests and has not issued technical guidelines permitting its use. Despite this, a provision in the Senate’s version of the surface transportation bill would circumvent HHS and allow bus and truck companies to use hair samples to comply with DOT drug testing.
“The Senate has undermined the expertise of scientists and potentially jeopardized the jobs of thousands of bus and truck drivers with this unproven testing method,” said TTD President Edward Wytkind. “We urge the House to reject the Senate’s hair testing provision and ensure that federal drug tests are backed by scientific and forensically sound evidence. Nothing less should be acceptable.”
Studies show that hair testing may have an inherent racial bias. Darker and more porous hair retains some drugs at greater rates than lighter hair. Hair specimen can also cause individuals to test positive for drugs they never ingested, as drugs from the environment can absorb into hair and cause positive results.
“The science behind hair testing is questionable and the drug test results it produces may be discriminatory and could produce false positives,” Wytkind warned.
The following organizations joined TTD on the letter:
American Civil Liberties Union
Association of Flight Attendants-CWA
Air Line Pilots Association
American Medical Review Officers, LLC
American Train Dispatchers Association
Amalgamated Transit Union
Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen
International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
International Brotherhood of Teamsters
Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice
National Air Traffic Controllers Association
National Workrights Institute
Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers-Transportation Division
Sailors’ Union of the Pacific
Transport Workers Union of America