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Passenger Trains > IG Report: Amtrak Struggles to Screen for Substance Abuse

Date: 03/15/19 17:18
IG Report: Amtrak Struggles to Screen for Substance Abuse
Author: GenePoon

Amtrak Struggles to Screen Workers for Drug, Alcohol Abuse, Report Finds

Inspector General’s report finds major flaws in substance-abuse testing

Wall Street Journal
by Ted Mann
March 14, 2019

WASHINGTON—Hundreds of Amtrak employees have slipped past the
railroad’s drug and alcohol testing regime in recent years, a new
report says, even as the railroad’s management has pledged to tighten
screening in the wake of a fatal 2016 crash.
A review by Amtrak’s inspector general, released Thursday, found that
the railroad had faulty databases for the more than 6,000
“safety-sensitive” employees it is required to screen for drug and
alcohol use under federal rules. Its record-keeping system for
testing data—a paper form—sometimes results in illegible or missing
Fewer than one-quarter of supervisors completed training to help
detect whether their employees were impaired by drugs or alcohol,
according to the report. And medical claims data also showed that
there were twice as many employees in crucial positions with drug or
alcohol issues as Amtrak management realized.
“Maintaining an effective drug and alcohol program has been a
longstanding challenge for the company,” the inspector general’s
report said.
Amtrak’s struggles to properly screen its safety-sensitive workers
has persisted despite embarrassing lapses and public pledges to
overhaul the testing system.
The Inspector General warned in a 2012 report that Amtrak wasn’t
doing enough to address increases in substance use among employees.
The new investigation was launched in the aftermath of a fatal
accident in 2016, in which two track workers were struck and killed
by an Amtrak regional train in Chester, Pa.
A subsequent investigation found that both of the workers who were
killed had drugs in their system at the time of the accident—cocaine
for one; oxycodone, codeine and morphine for the other. The train
engineer also tested positive for marijuana.
The incident put new scrutiny on Amtrak’s drug-test policies, though
drug impairment wasn’t found to be a factor in the crash. Instead, a
probe said the accident was caused by a failure to abide by rules for
reopening a track to train traffic and the absence of devices meant
to protect track workers.
For the new report, the inspector general reviewed testing records
and anonymous medical claims data for about 6,200 safety-sensitive
workers from 2014 through 2016. Amtrak’s testing had identified 153
workers in that category—including engineers, conductors,
dispatchers, and track workers—that had issues with drugs or
The new analysis found 169 additional workers whose medical claims
showed drug or alcohol abuse or dependence in that period.
“We recognize we can do a better job here, and we will implement the
OIG’s recommendations as soon as possible,” Amtrak spokeswoman
Christina Leeds said of the report. “There is nothing more important
to us than the safety of our people and our customers.”
The investigation also showed Amtrak was simply missing employees it
was supposed to be testing. Out of 783 locomotive engineers at the
railroad during the three years covered in the report, 33 didn’t
receive a single annual drug test, as required by federal
regulations. Some 57% of those engineers didn’t receive an annual
drug test in at least one of the three years.
And in other cases, Amtrak failed to follow through in cases where
its testing managed to detect drug use. In one case, an engineer who
failed a drug test was required to receive 12 drug tests over the
course of a year after returning to work, but was tested a single
time. In the following year, the railroad administered only one of a
required 11 drug tests to the engineer. In that test, the engineer
tested positive, the inspector general said.
While acknowledging the railroad needs to improve its testing,
Amtrak’s Ms. Leeds said that it had strengthened its testing program
in recent years and that its drug testing protocols go beyond what is
required by federal regulations. The railroad has launched new
training programs since 2018, after the period covered by the
inspector general’s report, she said.
Among the changes Amtrak has agreed to make are the elimination of a
program that required workers to “self-report” when they were
prescribed drugs that could cause impairment or addiction. Instead,
the railroad will issue a new policy to better inform employees of
drug risks during treatment and include “enhanced medication reviews”
during regular medical exams.
The inspector general investigation comes amid rising concern about
the potential for drug abuse in the transportation industry
generally. The Federal Railroad Administration in 2016 rejected a
rail industry request to delay a new rule expanding drug testing
requirements for workers, citing the surge in opioid-related
incidents in the transportation sector.

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Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/15/19 17:19 by GenePoon.

Date: 03/15/19 19:55
Re: IG Report: Amtrak Struggles to Screen for Substance Abuse
Author: jst3751

Date: 03/16/19 12:40
Re: IG Report: Amtrak Struggles to Screen for Substance Abuse
Author: NebraskaZephyr

In one of my many catch-all jobs at Amtrak, I was once tasked with assigning the random drug testing for the Transportaton Department in the Central Division.

About 10 days before the testing month, I would receive a FedEx envelope from corporate in D.C. (that only I could sign for receipt). Their computer would randomly determine the testing events and generate a sheet for each one. I then would contact the supervisor for that territory and the specimen collection agency with the particulars and fax the appropriate instuction sheet to each.

The random testing would be assigned by job symbol and date, not by individual employees. Whomever was working the job that day (including students) got tested. The upshoot of this was some extra board employees would get tested monthly or even more often, while regularly-assigned employees that were on vacation or their relief days might fall through the cracks and not get tested for a year or longer.  The test could be set up for the start or end of the tour of duty, but either one would frequently cause train delays because of either late departure or the crew wasn't released from the post-shift tresting in time to be rested for their return trip.

Non-T&E Transportaton employees would also be selected by job position and shift and whether the test would be at the beginning, middle or end of the shift. You always had to make sure with the Train Directors that you either held the previous shift over an hour or brought the relieving shift in an hour early (both on overtime) or an extra job was called to fill in for the tested individual during the procedure.

The only people that got selected by name were managers (for which you had to call in a superior offcier to their crew base to administer the test) or ageement employees who had previously tested "hot" and had been through the one-time-only rehab program through Operation Redblock,. Those individuals were subject to testing at ANY time for the next five years after their transgression. I did actually get a packet one month that tested one of these individuals FIVE times that month, including on back-to-back shifts.

All in all, it seemed like the testing WAS sufficiedntly random to prevent peopole from anticipating it, but there was the issue of some people falling through the cracks when the tests weren't assigned by individual. I can't speak for the Engineering (MofW/Signal Depts.) side as they may have had a completely different selecton process.



Date: 03/16/19 21:10
Re: IG Report: Amtrak Struggles to Screen for Substance Abuse
Author: mns019

Retired from shortline with 29 employees total, about 18 are subject to FRA drug testing, FRA just finished auditing them,, four FRA inspectors (maybe some training?) over day and a half.  How in the world is FRA not shutting down Amtrak if their random testing is that far out of compliance?  I am skeptical that Amtrak's situation is as dire as portrayed or FRA would be taking major action.

Date: 03/17/19 09:27
Re: IG Report: Amtrak Struggles to Screen for Substance Abuse
Author: Duna

Suggest congress be drug tested... Watch the excuses & outrage.

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