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Operator drug– and alcohol-testing across modes

Operator drug– and alcohol-testing across modes


Fiorentino, D., & Shannahan, R. (2011). Operator drug– and alcohol-testing across modes (CTBSSP Synthesis 23). Washington, DC: Transportation Research Board of the National Academies of Sciences.

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The primary objective of this synthesis is to identify the current practices used to deter drug and alcohol use among operators within the U.S.DOT’s regulated community. The intended target audience is broad, including DOT staff, various DOT agencies, companies of all sizes in the regulated industries, drug- and alcohol-testing organizations, and the research community.

The document begins with a brief history of the transportation workplace drug- and alcohol-testing program, the general approach, the reasons for testing, some of the issues that impact the validity of the tests, and an outline of the specific regulations by mode. Some alcohol- and drug-testing statistics are also presented to give the reader a sense of the scope of the program and of the prevalence of illegal alcohol and drug use among safety-sensitive employees.

Next, the findings of inquiries to companies in the regulated community are reported with an emphasis on alternative strategies aimed at deterring illegal alcohol and drug use among employees. Unfortunately, participation on the part of the companies in the regulated community was limited, resulting in a small sample. Moreover, it is possible that the companies that responded to requests for information may not be representative of their entire industry. This is an important caveat.

The structure and content of the section on alternative strategies reflect what the companies in the regulated community reported. The synthesis is not intended to provide an organic and comprehensive review of the scientific literature on alcohol testing, drug testing, and related topics, but rather to provide the minimum necessary information for most readers to understand and evaluate the actions of the regulated community. On the sensitive issue of alternative specimens, for example, considerably more space was devoted to the scientific issues associated with some matrices than others, because the regulated community has made certain decisions and those decisions are what the reader must understand and evaluate, not because of the inherent interest in one matrix over the other.

An attempt was made to provide the minimum necessary information in a scholarly fashion, with the hope of striking a delicate balance between brevity and thoroughness. It is hoped that readers find the balance useful, and they are asked to refer to the sources credited throughout the document for additional information.

Finally, some general recommendations for new research are included. They are offered with the strong belief that data obtained through methodologically sound research can help clarify some of the lingering issues associated with alcohol and drug testing in the transportation workplace.

Dary Fiorentino and Randi Shannahan, DF Consulting, Van Nuys, California, collected and synthesized the information and wrote the report. The Commercial Truck and Bus Safety Synthesis Program Oversight Committee members are acknowledged on the preceding page. This synthesis is an immediately useful document that records the practices that were acceptable within the limitations of the knowledge available at the time of its preparation. As progress in research and practice continues, new knowledge will be added to that now at hand.