Amtrak employees fail drug tests more often than industry peers, report finds

Amtrak employees tested positive more often for drugs and alcohol than their peers from other railway companies, according to a summary of recent investigations released Monday by the company's inspector general.

The finding was highlighted in a semi-annual report to Congress from Amtrak Inspector General Ted Alves. Alves touted the drug test findings as one of his office's most significant accomplishments between April and September 2012, the time period covered by his review.

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“We reported that Amtrak employees in safety-sensitive positions are testing positive for drugs and alcohol more frequently than their peers in the railroad industry,” Alves wrote. “Amtrak was not exercising due diligence to control the use of drugs and alcohol by these employees.”

Alves said he expected senior Amtrak officials to move quickly on the report and address safety concerns. Management “concurred with our recommendations and established time frames for Amtrak to implement the recommendations” in response to his office’s findings, said Alves.

Other investigations touted by Alves include a finding that “accountability for program results and program-wide planning for food and beverage program management could be improved."

“The company concurred with our recommendations and is taking steps to improve the program accountability and to develop a plan to reduce direct operating losses,” he said.

The Amtrak concession program came under fire from congressional Republicans last year after it reportedly lost $833 million in the last 10 years.

Alves said his office also “found significant management control weaknesses in Amtrak’s hiring practices, in general, particularly in its use of background investigation information.” The vetting problems led to “the waste of resources and the hiring of employees with past performance or other concerns, creating risks to Amtrak’s passengers, employees and operations.”

Alves said Amtrak’s management “with some exceptions, agreed with our recommendations and is committed to developing and implementing internal controls to strengthen policies and procedures.”

The full Amtrak OIG report can be read here.

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