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Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)

Under the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act, the Department of Transportation is required to implement Drug and Alcohol testing programs within various transportation industries. Drug and alcohol testing has been required by the FRA for railroad industry employees since 1986. The general purpose of this program is to prevent accidents and casualties in railroad operations that result from impairment of employees by alcohol and/or drugs.

For purposes of Part 219, FRA has designated its safety-sensitive employees to be those who perform service covered under the hours of service laws (covered service) and effective on June 12, 2017, Maintenance of Way employees as defined as “Roadway Worker in Part 214.7 will also be subject to Part 219 requirements. On June 12, 2017, the new term “regulated service” will include all hours of service employees and roadway workers, inclusive of “regulated service” contractors and also individuals who may volunteer to perform regulated service duties for a railroad. These generally include train and engine service employees involved in the movement of trains or engines (e.g., conductors, brakemen, switchmen, engineers, locomotive hostlers/helpers), dispatching employees who issue mandatory directives (e.g., train dispatchers, control operators), signal employees who inspect, repair or maintain signal systems and maintenance of way employees performing duties of roadway workers as defined in Part 214.7.

Who Falls Under FRA Drug Testing Regulations?

  • Engine and train personnel
  • Conductors, brakemen, switchmen, engineers, locomotive hostlers/helpers
  • Hours of Service Act personnel
  • Train dispatchers/Control operators
  • Maintenance of Way Employees

When is an FRA Drug Test Performed?

What Substances are Tested?

Alcohol – DOT alcohol tests can use either saliva or breath (with PAS devices) but confirmation tests must use EBT devices.

Drugs – As specified in DOT regulations 49 CFR part 40 with the Cut Off levels listed in DOT regulations 49 CFR part 40; the following substances will be tested for:

  1. Marijuana metabolites
  2. Cocaine metabolites
  3. Phencyclidine
  4. Opioids** – codeine, heroin, morphine, oxycodone, oxymorphone, hydrocodone & hydromorphone
  5. Amphetamines -amphetamine, methamphetamine, MDMA & MDA

**Some common names for the new semi-synthetic opioids include OxyContin®, Percodan®, Percocet®, Vicodin®, Lortab®, Norco®, Dilaudid®, and Exalgo®.

What is Pre-Employment Testing?

The DOT defines Pre-employment testing as prior to the first time any employee performs safety-sensitive functions for any employer (including a single owner operator). Part 40 states that the driver/safety-sensitive employee shall undergo testing for controlled substances as a condition of employment.

Furthermore, no employer shall allow a driver, who the employer intends to hire or use, to perform safety-sensitive functions unless the employer has received a controlled substances test result from the MRO or C/TPA indicating a verified negative test result for that driver/employee.

What is a violation of DOT Drug and Alcohol Regulations?

  • A verified positive DOT drug test result,
  • a DOT alcohol test with a result indicating an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or greater,
  • a refusal to test (including by adulterating or substituting a urine specimen) or
  • any other violation of the prohibition on the use of alcohol or drugs under a DOT agency regulation constitutes a DOT drug and alcohol regulation violation.

When is a SAP evaluation required?

A SAP (Substance Abuse Professional) is required when any safety sensitive employee violates any DOT drug and alcohol regulations. Once the violation has occurred, the employee must not perform any DOT safety-sensitive duties for any employer until and unless he/she completes the SAP evaluation, referral, and education/treatment process set forth in this subpart and in applicable DOT agency regulations.

How does the return-to-duty process conclude?

Employers wishing to permit the employee to return to the performance of safety-sensitive functions, you must ensure that the employee takes a return-to-duty test. This test cannot occur until after the SAP has determined that the employee has successfully complied with prescribed education and/or treatment. The employee must have a negative drug test result and/or an alcohol test with an alcohol concentration of less than 0.02 before resuming performance of safety-sensitive duties.

A SAP or MRO must not make a “fitness for duty” determination as part of this re-evaluation unless required to do so under an applicable DOT agency regulation. It is the employer’s responsibility to decide whether to put the employee back to work in a safety-sensitive position.

What is Follow up Testing?

Follow-up testing is required for drivers who:

  • tested positive,
  • refused, or
  • otherwise violated the prohibitions of 49 CFR Part 382 Subpart B; and
  • who have completed the return-to-duty process with a DOT-qualified substance abuse professional, and
  • have tested negative for a return-to-duty test.

Follow up testing is prescribed by the substance abuse professional (SAP) for a minimum of 6 directly observed tests in 12 months, but can be extended an additional four years.

Are there any exceptions to pre-employment drug testing?

Yes, the following examples are allowed by the DOT as exceptions to the pre-employment drug testing requirement:

An employer is not required to administer a controlled substances pre-employment test required by this section if:

  1. The driver has participated in a controlled substance testing program that meets the requirements of this part within the previous 30 days; and
  2. While participating in that program, either:
    1. Was tested for controlled substances within the past 6 months (from the date of application with the employer), or
    2. Participated in the random controlled substances testing program for the previous 12 months (from the date of application with the employer); and
  3. The employer ensures that no prior employer of the driver of whom the employer has knowledge has records of a violation of this part or the controlled substances use rule of another DOT agency within the previous six months.

If an employer chooses to exercise the above referenced exception must contact the controlled substances testing program(s) in which the driver participates or participated and shall obtain and retain from the testing program(s) the following information:

  1. Name(s) and address(es) of the program(s).
  2. Verification that the driver participates or participated in the program(s).
  3. Verification that the program(s) conforms to part 40 of this title.
  4. Verification that the driver is qualified under the rules of this part, including that the driver has not refused to be tested for controlled substances.
  5. The date the driver was last tested for controlled substances.
  6. The results of any tests taken within the previous six months and any other violations of subpart B of this part.

Is pre-employment alcohol testing allowed?

Employers may choose but are not required to, conduct pre-employment alcohol testing under this part. However, if an employer chooses to conduct pre-employment alcohol testing, it must comply with the following requirements:

  1. It must conduct a pre-employment alcohol test before the first performance of safety-sensitive functions by every covered employee (whether a new employee or someone who has transferred to a position involving the performance of safety-sensitive functions).
  2. It must treat all safety-sensitive employees performing safety-sensitive functions the same for the purpose of pre-employment alcohol testing (i.e., it must not test some covered employees and not others).
  3. It must conduct the pre-employment tests after making a contingent offer of employment or transfer, subject to the employee passing the pre-employment alcohol test.
  4. It must conduct all pre-employment alcohol tests using the alcohol testing procedures of 49 CFR part 40 of this title.
  5. It must not allow a covered employee to begin performing safety-sensitive functions unless the result of the employee’s test indicates an alcohol concentration of less than 0.04.

For information regarding the effects of drug abuse – Click Here

For information on a drug free work place – Click Here

For information on substance abuse programs – Click Here

For information on DOT Drug / Alcohol Testing requirements – Click Here

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