Last updated: November 23, 2020
Senator Robert F. Wicker (R-MS) introduced the Preventing Opioid and Drug Impairment in Transportation Act last week. It was just in time for it to make the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation’s Executive Session agenda. The Senate Committee meets on December 11th and will open discussion on the bill. It’s intended to strengthen existing opioid prevention tactics and focuses on collecting data in several different forms.
DATIA (Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry Association) will be monitoring the bill’s progress. So will many others in the safety-sensitive industry concerned with the continuing drug crisis our country faces.
The bill’s intent is to improve drug testing for transportation-related activities. If passed into law, it calls for implementing several different studies and reporting procedures. Ultimately, the goal is to increase the safety of everyone traveling throughout our nation by whichever means they choose.
Amtrak’s at the top of the list
The FMCSA Clearinghouse begins operation on January 6, 2020 requiring all employers of the trucking industry to submit queries on all potential new hires. The query searches specifically for drug or alcohol-related violations. Employers must also begin reporting all drug and alcohol violations incurred by current employees. The information is retained in the database until the violation has been remedied.
Once it’s up and running, this process will eliminate the possibility of drivers not reporting a violation to a new employer. Moreover, because it’s a national database, drivers can’t pick up and move to a new state to apply for a new CDL (Commercial Driver’s License) there.
If passed, the new bill requires Amtrak to submit controlled substance and alcohol testing records of all employees in like manner. Amtrak will establish an electronic database of test data to replace paper records. In addition, Amtrak must establish effective procedures to track and monitor drug and alcohol testing records that are maintained in the electronic database.
Lastly, Amtrak must submit a report to both the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure of the House of Representatives. The report must describe the measures taken to improve compliance with the issue of employees self-reporting prescription drug use.
Changes in current regulations
Within a year after the Act is enacted, the Secretary of Transportation will determine if 49 CFR Part 240 and 49 CFR Part 242 should be revised to include requiring locomotive engineers or conductors to immediately report arrests due to drug or alcohol offenses. Personnel seeking certification to become an engineer or conductor must do the same.
If revisions will be made, the Secretary of Transportation will publish a notice in the Federal Register to that effect.
A safety-sensitive study
If the bill passes, the Secretary of State will be responsible for submitting a report to Congress that determines whether or not pipeline companies that operate from either Mexico or Canada into the United States perform drug testing of employees living outside the U.S. but who are responsible for maintaining and controlling pipeline within the U.S. The drug tests must be comparable to those used for U.S. employees.
The report is to include information as to whether or not operators have sufficient testing procedures in place to ensure that pipelines within the U.S. are maintained safely.
Correcting an oversight
The bill calls for an amendment of 49 CRF Part 199 to improve the efficiency of drug testing for operators and pipeline contractors working for multiple operators in multiple states. The goal is to minimize duplicative audits of the same operators by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and other State agencies.
Drug use on the road
The NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) Administrator will conduct a study regarding ways to better detect impaired driving, which specifically includes marijuana and opioid-impaired driving. The study will last over a period of several years. The administrator will report updates regarding the study’s progress to Congress along the way.
Roadside oral fluid tests
The Secretary of Transportation will oversee a study. It will be in regard to the accuracy of onsite oral fluid drug testing for marijuana and opiates. The goal is to discover if their use will aid in reducing the potential impact on traffic safety.
The report will include:
- The status of onsite oral fluid drug testing technology available
- Information on the reliability and accuracy of the devices
- Oral fluid research and pilot programs in the U.S. and other countries to assess how the technology is being utilized
- State-based policies regarding implied consent and testing in impaired driving cases
- Presenting instances for deploying this technology in the field
- Discovering any legal and policy issues that could arise using this technology
DOT drug testing panel report
The bill requires the Comptroller General of the United States to review the DOT’s (Department of Transportation) process for setting guidelines and drug testing requirements for safety-sensitive employees subject to drug testing. The General will submit a report to both the Senate and House committees.
The report is to include:
- A description of the HHS’s (Department of Human Health and Services) process for adding and removing drug categories included in Federal workplace drug testing requirements
- An evaluation of the dependence of the DOT on the HHS’s determination whether or not to add new categories of drugs to the testing panel
- An assessment of whether the HHS’s process for adding and removing drug categories from the Federal workplace drug testing requirements adequately addresses the needs of the industry to prevent drug and alcohol-related incidents
Will they add fentanyl?
In regard to opioid prevention, the Secretary of HHS must submit a status report pertaining to whether it will add fentanyl to the drug testing panel.
Hair testing guideline report
Lastly, the bill calls for the HHS Secretary to submit reports on the scientific and technical guidelines for hair testing. The report will detail the causes of the delay in submitting these guidelines to the Office of Management and Budget. The report is to include an estimated date by which the hair testing guidelines will be completed.
Further regulation regarding safety-sensitive employee drug testing is something the majority of, if not all, employers will embrace. Drug use is a huge safety hazard in the workplace and, certainly, on the road. Taking steps to kick it to the curb at every turn is a worthwhile endeavor indeed.