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Top Democrats Urge Immediate DOT Action on Drug Testing for Opioids

Oct 10, 2017
Press Release

Top Democrats Urge Immediate DOT Action on Drug Testing for Opioids

Trump Administration has failed to add opioids to drug-testing panel for certain transportation workers

Washington, D.C. -- Today, the Ranking Democrats on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure sent a letter to Secretary of the Department of Transportation (DOT) Elaine Chao urging immediate action on a stalled rulemaking that would add four prescription opioids to the drug-testing for safety-sensitive transportation workers. The letter was signed by Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Rick Larsen (D-WA), Michael Capuano (D-MA), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), John Garamendi (D-CA), and Hank Johnson (D-GA), Ranking Members of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, Subcommittee on Aviation, Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials, Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, and Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management, respectively. 

Currently, DOT does not require drug testing of safety-sensitive transportation workers for opioid misuse. On January 23, 2017, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) updated its Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing Programs Using Urine, and allowed DOT to add four prescription opioids to its decades-old drug-testing panel: hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxymorphone, and oxycodone.

“We understand that DOT issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on January 23, 2017, to adopt the HHS guidelines on opioids. Comments were due more than six months ago, and the NPRM has since languished in this Administration. We strongly urge you to take action now to finalize this rulemaking as a first step toward addressing the opioid crisis,” the Members wrote.

The full letter is below.

A fact sheet can be found here.

 

October 10, 2017

The Honorable Elaine L. Chao

Secretary

U.S. Department of Transportation

1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE

Washington, DC 20590

 

Dear Secretary Chao:

We write to urge you to take immediate action to harmonize U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) drug testing regulations with the revised U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing Programs Using Urine, published on January 23, 2017, and effective October 1, 2017. These guidelines would allow DOT to add four prescription opioids to its decades-old drug-testing panel: hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxymorphone, and oxycodone.

Currently, DOT does not require drug testing of safety-sensitive transportation workers for opioid use. DOT only requires a five-panel test to include drugs that HHS authorized and published in a final rule in 1989, almost 30 years ago, such as marijuana, cocaine, and PCP. Yet, we are in the midst of a prescription opioid crisis in America.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. The CDC estimates that more than 52,000 Americans died of drug overdose in 2016, and it predicts that over 71,000 Americans will die from overdose in 2017. In 2016 alone, it is estimated that 11.8 million Americans engaged in opioid misuse.

Transportation workers are not immune to this crisis, as evidenced by the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) investigation of a 2016 passenger train accident near Chester, Pennsylvania. On April 3, 2016, Amtrak train 89 struck a backhoe used by a maintenance crew performing scheduled track work near Chester. Two maintenance workers were killed and 41 persons aboard the train were treated for injuries. According to the Medical Factual Report prepared for the NTSB, the engineer of Amtrak train 89 tested positive post-accident for cannabinoids, indicating the use of marijuana, and the maintenance workers tested positive for a variety of prescription and non-prescription drugs, including cocaine and oxycodone. The cause of the accident is still under investigation.

We understand that DOT issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on January 23, 2017, to adopt the HHS guidelines on opioids. Comments were due more than six months ago, and the NPRM has since languished in this Administration. We strongly urge you to take action now to finalize this rulemaking as a first step toward addressing the opioid crisis.

If you have any questions, please contact me or have your staff contact Ms. Jennifer Homendy of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Democratic staff at (202) 225-3274.

 

                                                            Sincerely,

 

PETER DeFAZIO                                                     ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON

Ranking Member                                                        Ranking Member

Committee on Transportation                                    Subcommittee on Highways

 and Infrastructure                                                       and Transit

 

 

RICK LARSEN                                                          MICHAEL E. CAPUANO

Ranking Member                                                         Ranking Member

Subcommittee on Aviation                                          Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials

 

 

GRACE F. NAPOLITANO                                       JOHN GARAMENDI

Ranking Member                                                         Ranking Member

Subcommittee on Water Resources                             Subcommittee on Coast Guard

and Environment                                                        and Maritime Transportation

 

 

Hank Johnson

Ranking Member                                            

Subcommittee on Economic Development,

Public Buildings and Emergency Management

 

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