Amtrak employees failed drug tests more often than employees of other railways last year, according to a summary of recent investigations released Monday by the company’s inspector general, highlighted in a semi-annual report to Congress from Amtrak Inspector General Ted Alves. PDF link of the report is here.
Alves said the drug test investigation was one of his office’s most significant accomplishments between April and September 2012.
From the report, some of the findings, improvements & recommendations:
Amtrak’s employees in safety-sensitive positions are testing positive for drugs and alcohol more frequently than their peers in the railroad industry. Our analysis of Amtrak’s random drug and alcohol test results shows that these employees have been testing positive for drugs and alcohol at a rate that has been generally trending upward since 2006, and this rate has exceeded the industry average
for the past five years. the majority of Amtrak’s positive tests since 2006 were for drugs, primarily cocaine and marijuana. In 2011, Amtrak had 17 positive tests for drugs or alcohol, which resulted in a combined positive test rate that was about 51 percent above the industry average, its worst rate since 2007. The 2011 rate was driven by a relatively large number of positive tests by signals and mechanical employees that were both over four times the rate of their peers in the industry.
Federal railroad Administration (FrA) guidance implementing this regulation requires Amtrak to randomly test at least 25 percent of these employees for drugs and at least 10 percent for alcohol each year. Amtrak must also physically observe each employee for signs and symptoms of drug and alcohol use once every three months, on average. Amtrak has over 4,400 employees in these safety-sensitive positions, including locomotive engineers, conductors, and train dispatchers, and also some employees who maintain signals equipment and some employees who operate locomotives within the mechanical yard or maintain locomotive cab signal equipment. Amtrak estimates that it plans to spend about $1.5 million in fiscal year 2012 administering its drug and alcohol program.
Amtrak is not exercising due diligence to control the use of drugs and alcohol by these employees. Until we presented Amtrak’s key senior management with our preliminary results, they were unaware of the extent of drug and alcohol use by these employees. Further, senior management is not actively engaged in the program, nor have they demonstrated that controlling drugs and alcohol is a clear priority at Amtrak, thereby making it difficult to manage the risk that drug and alcohol use poses to its employees, passengers, and the public.