Positive drug-test rate rose in 2016

WASHINGTON — A U.S. Department of Transportation report shows that the overall 2016 lab-reported positive drug-test rate for truck drivers and other DOT security-­sensitive employees rose to its highest level since at least 2009.

However, despite the rate increase, the actual number of people who tested positive for several drugs declined year-over-year, due to about 800,000 fewer tests being administered in 2016.

The overall 2016 drug testing failure rate for all tests reported by certified labs increased to 1.98 percent from 1.85 percent in 2015, the report said.

The rate includes driver random, pre-employment, post-accident, “reasonable suspicion” and return-to-duty drug tests.

More commercial motor vehicle drivers tested positive for marijuana in 2016 than any other drug category.

The rate of positive tests for amphetamines continued to climb at a rapid rate, followed by increases in cocaine test failures. The positive rate for cocaine rose from 0.24 percent to 0.27 percent after declining the past three years.

Truck and bus drivers took about 97 percent of the 5.5-million lab­reported random DOT tests, down from 6.3 million tested in 2015, according to the report. The decline in overall numbers of tests was largely due to a reduction in the agency’s required random testing rate to 25 percent of commercial driver license holders in 2016, compared with 50 percent in 2015.

Despite a nationwide opioid overdose epidemic, USDOT has not yet approved testing for the highly abused pain medicine. However, in a January notice of proposed rulemaking, the agency took a step toward requiring opioid testing for the prescription medications hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxycodone and oxymorphone.

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