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An inquest into an Amtrak accident in Philadelphia last year has revealed that the workers involved all had drugs in their systems. The accident, in April of 2016, involved three Amtrak workers, one driving the train and two on the tracks that were struck. The two maintenance workers were found to have had opioids and/or cocaine in their systems at their time of death, and the conductor of the train had marijuana in his system at the time of the incident.
The release of this final report has lead House Democrats to ask that federally regulated transportation industry workers now be tested for prescription opioids in light of the widespread opioid epidemic. Federally regulated transportation workers (truck drivers, bus drivers, and railroad operators) are currently only tested for marijuana, cocaine, and phencyclidine (PCP) like substances.
A similar rule has already been proposed before the Obama administration left office, one that would allow the DOT to test for four prescription opioids – hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxymorphone, and oxycodone. However, with the change of administration, the rule has not moved forward since the comment period ended. Supporters of more strict rules cite railroad workers as an example of why these additions to the federal panel are needed.
Although railroad workers are already among the most heavily tested with pre-employment screens, random testing, and post-accident testing, there has been a sharp increase in random test positives since 2015, with positives increasing by 43%. Experts cite the opioid crisis and widespread opioid use as the cause of this increase.