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Proposed Urine, Alcohol Tests Could Cost Billions


January 1993

Federal Department of Transportation (DOT) guidelines that would impose mandatory drug and alcohol testing on most of the nation's transportation workers who are not already covered could cost more than $2 billion over a 10-year period (Richard Weintraub, "Transport Workers Face Random Alcohol Tests: Unions Criticize DOT Proposals," Washington Post, 12/11/92, A1; Mitch Maurer, "Drug Testing Hot Topic in Transport Industry," Tulsa World, 12/15/92, B7).

Estimated costs for the aviation, rail, mass transit, and pipeline industries for the proposed testing range from $260 million to $430 million over 10 years, while the estimated cost for motor carriers over that period runs from $1.2 billion to $2.4 billion. The range is based on frequency of random testing.

DOT already mandates urine testing for airline pilots and mechanics, train engineers, and truck drivers. The new proposals would extend testing to additional truck, van and bus drivers, and additional railroad, mass transit, and airline industry personnel. Air Transport Association (ATA) spokesman Tim Neale expressed fear that the new regulations would disrupt operations, and a transportation union local president said the proposal, if implemented, would waste money.

Opponents pointed out that airline and other transportation workers tested under current guidelines have shown extremely low levels of drug use. The ATA has petitioned to have both current and proposed regulations revised so that only 10 percent of airline workers, rather than 50 percent, as under current rules, would be subjected to testing.

The proposed random alcohol testing regulations would subject from 10 percent to 50 percent of transportation workers to alcohol tests. The combined drug and alcohol testing would affect about 6 million commercial truckers, 80,000 railroad engineers, brakemen, dispatchers, signal maintenance workers, and conductors, 200,000 mass transit vehicle operators, controllers and maintenance workers, 120,000 gas pipeline operators, and 340,000 airline flight crew members, attendants, traffic controllers, maintenance workers, and security coordinators.