April 29, 2020
Oversight Weaknesses Limit FRA’s Review, Approval, and Enforcement of Railroads’ Drug and Alcohol Testing Programs
What We Looked At
Preventing accidents in railroad operations that result from employees’ illicit drug and/or alcohol impairment is critical to ensuring the safety of the traveling public. Illicit drug use discovered during investigation of fatal railroad accidents and a recent increase in the percentage of railway workers testing positive for drug use underscore the importance of the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) oversight of railroads’ drug and alcohol testing programs. Given the importance of drug and alcohol testing to protecting transportation safety, our office is conducting a series of reviews on drug testing programs within the transportation industry. Our objectives for this self-initiated audit were to assess FRA’s (1) review and approval of railroads’ random alcohol and drug testing program plans, and (2) controls for enforcing compliance with the plans and minimum annual random alcohol and drug testing rates.
What We Found
FRA has not adequately reviewed and approved railroads’ drug and alcohol testing plans as required or documented its review and approval process. Our review found that FRA reviewed and approved incomplete plans that do not fully adhere to FRA regulations. Specifically, we reviewed 102 drug and alcohol testing plans from applicable railroads and determined that approximately 51 percent of the reviewed and approved plans were incomplete and did not contain key elements required by FRA regulations. In addition, FRA’s ability to verify and enforce railroads’ compliance with drug and alcohol testing requirements is limited by internal control weaknesses. For example, FRA’s program guidance for overseeing drug and alcohol testing compliance is outdated and does not reflect current regulations or provide for supervisor review. FRA has also not established a process for following up on action items issued to railroads during compliance audits to verify they undertake recommended actions. Furthermore, FRA procedures do not fully meet its drug and alcohol testing compliance audit goals.
FRA concurred with all four of our recommendations to improve its guidance and oversight of the drug and alcohol testing program and proposed appropriate actions and completion dates.