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Drug and Alcohol Testing To Be Expanded for Transportation Workers


July 1994

In February of this year, Transportation Secretary Federico Pena announced that widely expanded drug testing requirements for truck drivers, railroad workers, pilots and other safety sensitive transportation workers will go into effect January 1, 1995. (Don Phillips, "Alcohol and Drug Testing Expanded for Transportation Workers," Washington Post, 2/4/94, A3). The expanded tests are estimated to cost the industry $200 million annually and will affect 7.4 million workers.

The new regulations will require that alcohol tests, now required only after railroad or maritime accidents, be administered on a random basis, at the time of hiring, when an employee behaves suspiciously, or when a suspended employee returns to work after rehabilitation. The new rules require that employees found to have a blood alcohol level of .04% -- less than half the legal limit for motorists -- be removed from service until after professional treatment. Those found with blood alcohol levels between .02 and .04% must be removed from service temporarily.

Drug testing is already required for some transportation workers. However, under the new rules, testing will be expanded to include additional categories of workers such as school bus drivers, mass transit operators, intrastate truckers, and any worker with a commercial drivers license.

Unions and industry officials object to the expanded regulations. They argue that the current tests only find a minuscule amount of drug use and that random tests should be cut from the current level of 50% of workers per year down to 10%. However, some provisions have been made in the rules to reduce the number of drug tests. If drug tests in a particular industry find drug use in less than 1% of workers, then the testing of the industry's employees would be reduced from 50% to 25%.

Unions also object that rehabilitation programs are not required after a worker is found to be impaired. Some union officials voiced objections to work place drug testing as overly intrusive and unconstitutional. In the business and labor worlds, only the railroad industry supported the new rules.

[The new rules are promulgated in the Code of Federal Regulations, 59 CFR pp. 7302 - 7338, 7412 - 7423, Feb. 15, 1994].