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U.S. Department
of Transportation
Federal Transit
Office of Safety and Security

FTA Drug And Alcohol Regulation Updates

Fall 2002

Issue 23


   The Federal Transit Admin-istration (FTA) published its revised rule on prohibited drug use and the prevention of alcohol misuse (49 CFR Part 655) on August 1, 2001. The FTA published the revised Implementation Guidelines for Drug and Alcohol Regulations in Mass Transit to provide a comprehensive overview of the regulations.

   Since the Guidelines were published, there have been numerous amendments, interpretations, and clarifications to the Drug and Alcohol testing procedures and program requirements.

   This publication is being provided to update the Guidelines and inform your transit system of these changes. This Update is the twenty-third in a series.


Evaluation Concludes Benefits Outweigh Cost

    A strategic goal of the Federal Transit Administration is to “reduce the number of transit-related fatalities, injuries, and incidents.” In an effort to determine if the drug and alcohol testing program has contributed to the achievement of this goal, the FTA conducted an evaluation of the effectiveness of the program in relation to its costs. The evaluation conducted by the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center was based primarily on empirical knowledge and performance of the FTA substance abuse initiatives including FTA audit results, the annual Drug and Alcohol Management Information System (DAMIS) report results and safety data from the National Transit Database (NTD). The evaluation included empirical data from the five-year period from 1995 to 1999.

    In general, the evaluation found that the FTA drug and alcohol testing program contributed significant economic benefits to both the transit industry and society as a whole by effectively enforcing the regulations.

    Over the five-year period, the program cost the FTA and the transit industry $154 million while providing overall societal benefits totaling $1.161 billion resulting in a net economic benefit of $1.007 billion. In addition, the evaluation found that the program assisted the transit industry avoid an estimated 596 accidents, saving 5 lives and avoiding 524 injuries. Over the five-year period, 17,483 transit employees were found to use illegal drugs or misuse alcohol through the FTA testing program. If not identified through the FTA drug and alcohol testing program these employees would have incurred a total societal economic cost in 1999 of $343 million. Over the five year period, 7,102 applicants tested positive on pre-employment tests, 6,979 employees tested positive on random tests, 805 employees tested positive on reasonable suspicion tests, 1,170 employees tested positive on post-accident tests, and 1,427 employees refused to take a test.

Total Drug and Alcohol Program Costs, Benefits and Net Benefits by Year.

    Even though systems with a second chance policy spent $4.4 million for additional testing, administration, and recidivism costs, this was more than offset by the $17.6 million savings in new employee training costs. The evaluation also concluded that 1,926 individuals were deterred from using drugs or misusing alcohol due to the presence of the testing program resulting in a total societal economic cost saving of $38 million in 1999 alone. If as a result of the test these individuals stopped using illegal drugs or misusing alcohol, the total societal economic savings in 1999 would amount to $19,575 per year per individual.

    When compared to initial cost/benefit projections made prior to the implementation of the regulations, the total transit industry cost for the program is less than expected and the benefits are nearly double the original expectations. In addition, drug use and alcohol use is decreasing and the program has “consistently and measurably continued to mitigate abusers through termination and rehabilitation as well as deterring further potential drug use and alcohol misuse.” As a result, the program has generated significant economic and public safety benefits.

    The evaluation was published in a report, “FTA Drug and Alcohol Program Assessment,” in October 2002. The report can be obtained through the National Technical Information Service (FTA-MA-26-5010-02-2), or through the FTA Clearinghouse by contacting, calling (617) 494-2108 or at

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