Starting at the beginning of 2018, the Department of Transportation will require that drug testing panels include four prescription opioids – hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxymorphone and oxycodone for “safety-sensitive” transportation workers. The change was announced in the Federal Register, effective January 1, 2018.
In making the change, the Department of Transportation noted that many private companies already test for the opiates and that it is responding to the wide-spread concern over the increase in opiate use.
Coincidentally, an annual study of testing done by Quest Diagnostics found what the company termed an “alarming’ increase in the percentage of U.S. workers in “safety-sensitive” jobs who flunked their DOT-mandated drug tests. That includes truck drivers, maritime, rail, pipeline and air workers. Quest found the following increases in failed tests between 2015 and 2016:
- Marijuana-positive: 10%
- Cocaine-positive: 7%
- Methamphetamine-positive: 14%
Opioids did not increase between 2015 and 2016, but Quest points out that it had seen an almost 17% increase in positive opioid tests from 2012 to 2016.
It is worth noting that there was an Amtrak accident last year in which the engineer struck and killed two rail workers. The engineer tested positive for marijuana, one of the workers who died tested positive for cocaine and the other tested positive for unprescribed oxycodone.