Drug Testing:

Management Problems and Legal Challenges Facing DOT's Industry Programs

RCED-90-31: Published: Nov 27, 1989. Publicly Released: Jan 25, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined the approach that the Department of Transportation (DOT) used to implement its transportation industry drug-testing program, focusing on: (1) six transportation agencies' development of economic evaluations and the status of their programs; (2) whether the Office of the Secretary of Transportation (OST) provided sufficient guidance to DOT agencies to ensure effective program implementation; (3) the legal issues of the implementing regulations; and (4) how proposed legislation compared with DOT drug-testing regulations.

GAO found that: (1) although regulations required transportation employers to begin drug testing by the end of 1989, three of the six agencies moved their implementation dates back from 1 to 4 months; (2) although the agencies' drug-testing programs covered similar types of safety-sensitive employees, they did not include such practices as providing comprehensive guidance to employers, reviewing employers' submission of drug-testing plans, and monitoring employer programs; (3) two of the six agencies' programs included each of those practices, while one did not include any of them; (4) one agency planned to monitor employer compliance but provided limited guidance to employers and did not plan to review employer drug-testing plans; (5) the other two agencies provided employer guidance and planned to monitor employer compliance, but did not plan to review employer's programs; (6) OST did not provide the agencies with guidance on what program information to gather from employers in order to evaluate overall program success; (7) most of the union and employee association challenges to DOT drug-testing regulations ranged from the constitutionality of random drug testing to DOT basic statutory authority to mandate private-sector employee drug testing; and (8) the key differences between the proposed legislation and DOT regulations concerned requirements for alcohol testing and penalties for employers who failed to comply with regulations.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: A Special Assistant for Drug Enforcement and Program Compliance was appointed to work with all modes to enhance the effectiveness of DOT drug testing programs.

    Recommendation: In order to oversee the Department's management of the industry drug-testing program to ensure effective implementation across all administrations, the Secretary of Transportation should establish an organizational focal point in OST to work with the administrations to incorporate effective management practices into their implementation approaches, including the practices identified as essential to ensuring that employers are complying with drug-testing regulations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OST established a working group with representatives from each mode to study recordkeeping and review data developed from the program to determine if changes are needed.

    Recommendation: In order to oversee the Department's management of the industry drug-testing program to ensure effective implementation across all administrations, the Secretary of Transportation should establish an organizational focal point in OST to adopt program evaluation criteria and provide the administrations with guidance on the types of information they should gather from employers to evaluate the overall success of the program and progress in meeting the goal of having a drug-free transportation work place.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Railroad Administration, and Federal Highway Administration have published penalty schedules. Administrations that normally do not use penalty schedules have incorporated appropriate parallel programs designed to render the same effect (e.g., published guidance that the agency plans to propose withholding funds if not in compliance).

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct each administration to publish a specific penalty schedule for employers who do not comply with the drug-testing regulations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

 

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