Legislative Update: DOT FRA Drug & Alcohol Testing Rate Changes

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is updating its drug and alcohol regulation (49 CFR Part 219) by expanding the scope of Part 219 to cover Maintenance-of-Way (MOW) employees. According to the Federal Register Vol 81, No. 112, “Historically, FRA has conducted only post-mortem post-accident toxicological (PAT) testing of MOW employees, since an MOW employee, unlike a covered service employee, has been subject to Part 219 testing only when he or she has died as the result of a reportable railroad accident or incident. Even in this comparatively small sample of postmortem results, however, FRA found a disproportionately high level of positive test results among deceased MOW employees compared to the PAT testing and random testing results of covered employees who are already wholly subject to Part 219.”

Due to the disproportionate level of positive test results, the FRA has moved to make MOW employees fully subject to the policies and enforcement of Part 219.

The Federal Register states, “In this rule, FRA is making MOW employees subject to all Part 219 testing, namely, random testing, PAT testing, reasonable suspicion testing, reasonable cause testing, pre-employment testing, return-to-duty testing, and follow-up testing.”

Specifically of interest for FRA workers is the variance within the mandated random drug & alcohol screening rates. The variance seems to demonstrate the DOT’s belief that MOW workers currently require higher rates of screening than that of the standard Covered Service workers due to the previous disproportionate level of positive test results. In 2017, the following rates will apply to FRA workers:


Validity encourages all DOT FRA agencies and subcontracted employers to examine their policies on annual minimum drug and alcohol testing rates and ensure those policies provide for the inclusion of MOW workers at the prescribed rates. Also provided below are 2 DOT articles giving greater detail and explanations of the subject matter described herein.