"Here in the United States of America,
we have no meaningful program of drug testing
for commercial truck drivers, none."
- Peter A. DeFazio, Rep.
Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Highways
The same can now be applied to our Nation’s mines.
Basing the MSHA program upon DOT part 40 procedures effectively neuters any ability to provide a drug free workplace in the mining sector.The net result is that we will continue to have drug abusers killing themselves and others in our mines, just like we have large haul truckers do the same
daily on our Nation’s highways.
The Federal GAO has already clearly demonstrated the problems associated
with DOT part 40 procedures which attempt to manage drug abuse in the trucking
industry (as well as mass transit, commercial airlines, railways, oil&gas pipelines,
and nuclear reactors).
Specifically require urine-based testing, as required by DOT part 40, can not,
and does not effectively detect substance abuse in a workplace environment.
Any effective drug-free workplace testing must leverage observed specimen
collection (only feasible with oral fluids), and on-the-spot specimen collection
(if not on-site test devices).
Clearly better programs are required in the mining sector, as well as DOT,
FFA, and other areas. Unfortunately, the regulations proposed by MSHA
will do little, it anything to mitigate workplace risk due to substance abuse.
The proposed MSHA regulation state “ Alcohol- and drug-testing would
need to be conducted consistently with procedures incorporated by reference
from DOT part 40, except in those places where specifically modified by this rule.”
1. The only significant modification to DOT part 40, appears to be
expanding the drug classes to be tested. Urine is still the required
specimen type. The Federal GAO, and other independent experts
have already reported on the fact the unobserved urine collection is
an effective procedures due to the fact that drug abusers will easily
adulterate or substitute their specimens.
2. Because urine collection is so invasive and distasteful, the least
skills and lowest paid individuals are hired by urine testing laboratories
and large TPAs (Third Party Administrators) to collect urine specimens.
The results is that procedures are not followed, and corruption of the
system is rampant.
3. The DOT part 40 regulation has an excessively high cut-off level for
opiates, making it very ineffective in detecting opiate abuse. Opiate
abuse, specifically prescription pain relievers is one of, if not the most
serious safety drug safety issue affecting the workplace and our schools today.
In fact, 1/3 of all large truck fatalities had an associated factor of prescription
drug use / misuse (FMSCA Annual Study).
Alternative specimen types, especially oral fluid, should be allowed in
addition to urine. An skilled professionals, such as safety and risk management
experts should be administering on-site and laboratory oral fluid, urine and other
As Peter A. DeFazio, Rep. , Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit so concisely stated - "Here in the United States of America, we have no meaningful program of drug testing for commercial truck drivers, none."
The same can now be applied to our Nation’s mines.
GAO Report (s)
GAO Investigation Finds Numerous Problems with DOT Drug Screening
[Posted 11/06/07] In testimony before the Congressional Subcommittee on Highways and Transit
on November 1, 2007, the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that
“DOT’s drug testing program is vulnerable to manipulation by drug users.”
GAO’s undercover operation investigated 24 drug test collection sites in four large metropolitan areas
across the country to determine if sites collecting urine samples were adhering to DOT collection
protocols and whether commercially available products could be used to defeat drug tests.
To conduct the investigation, GAO created two fictitious trucking companies with investigators posing as
Twenty-four publicly-advertised urine collection sites were investigated. Sixteen DOT protocols
deemed to be the most critical for foiling an employee attempt to defeat a drug test were examined
at each location. The GAO investigation revealed an alarming number of vulnerabilities.
Investigators successfully used bogus driver’s licenses to gain access to all 24 sites—demonstrating that a drug user could send someone else to take a drug test in his/her place using fake identification.
Most collection sites failed to comply with all DOT protocols. Twenty-two of the 24 collection sites inadequately followed DOT protocols. Deficiencies included:
- failing to restrict access to materials (water, soap, bleach, air fresheners, etc.) that could be used to adulterate or dilute samples (75%);
- failing to secure sources of water in the restroom (67%);
- failing to have test subjects empty pockets to ensure there were no materials that could adulterate the specimen (42%);
- failing to check the temperature of the specimen (19%);
- failing to secure the toilet with tape or bluing agent (17%).
Commercially-available products can defeat drug tests. Synthetic urine and other adulterants readily available online can be used to tamper with samples. Companies that sell drug-masking products can access regulatory details on testing and validating urine specimens and use the information to ensure their products are not detected by laboratories.
Adulterants and synthetic urine were used at eight of the 24 collection sites. Investigators found it was easy to take drug-masking or substitution products into a collection room at each of the eight collection sites tested with such products. They were successful at every attempt to adulterate or substitute a urine sample.
Adulterants and substitutes were not detected by drug testing laboratories. Every drug-masking product tested went undetected by the drug screening labs—suggesting a drug user could receive a passing result on his/her test.
GAO investigators concluded that “a drug user could easily pass a DOT drug test and continue to work in his or her safety-sensitive commercial transportation job—driving children to school or transporting hazardous materials, for example.” They went on to say “improvements will need to be made in both the design of the entire process and the ability of collection site employees to adhere to current protocols.”
GAO will investigate options for improving DOT drug testing and report to the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit in May 2008.
Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Minnesota, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said the report was “frankly astonishing and shocking and dismaying. You can manipulate the tests, you can mask substance abuse and go undetected on the roadways.” He noted that the drug-testing system was broken and was placing other drivers in danger.
It is estimated that somewhere between 1 percent and 10 percent of drivers of commercial or “big rig” trucks are operating under the influence of drugs or alcohol on any given day. The American Trucking Associations (ATA) believes the “positive” rate among truck drivers tested for drugs is about 2 percent to 2.5 percent. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s National Center for Statistics and Analysis says the number is a little more than 1 percent. The state of Oregon, however, which has been conducting random tests of drivers on that state’s road since 1998, puts the figure at nearly 10 percent. The problem is no one really knows how big the problem really is, because effective testing modalities such as oral fluid technology are being circumvented by private interests such as large urine testing laboratories and TPAs (third party administrators).