Hollings Backs Transit Worker Drug Test Bill

From Associated Press

Sen. Ernest F. Hollings (D-S.C.), the chairman of a key Senate transportation panel, vowed Thursday to pursue efforts to pass legislation requiring mandatory drug tests for transit system workers.

“If we are to entrust them with our lives, we have every right to expect that they not use illegal drugs and that they not drink alcoholic beverages on the job,” Hollings said.

His comments came a day after a subway crash in Manhattan killed five people. Police have charged train motorman Robert Ray with manslaughter and say they believe he was drunk when the accident occurred. He has told police he was drinking prior to the crash.


Authorities also found a vial with traces of cocaine inside the motorman’s cab, but medical experts said Thursday that no drugs other than alcohol were found in Ray’s blood.

Mass transit workers in safety-related positions had been targeted for mandatory drug testing in regulations issued by the Transportation Department’s Urban Mass Transit Administration.

But the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled in January, 1990, that the agency had no regulatory power and could not force its drug-testing rules on the mass transit systems that it helps finance.

While all 12 of the nation’s rapid rail systems have their own drug-testing programs, their employees--unlike airline, railroad and trucking company workers--are exempt from the uniform standards imposed by federal drug testing regulations.

Hollings called for swift passage of a law that would include the drug testing regulations already issued by the Transportation Department.

The bill, which has been approved by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee that Hollings chairs, would apply to mass transit workers and expand the program to include random testing for alcohol.