FRA reaffirms drug testing rule for MOW workers

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WASHINGTON — The Federal Railroad Administration on Nov. 10 rejected a petition by railroads and contractors to reconsider the extension of the agency's drug and alcohol testing program to include contract maintenance-of-way workers.

The Association of American Railroads, American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association, American Public Transit Association, and the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association asked the FRA to extend the compliance deadline from June 2017 to June 2018, and to withdraw a provision that would hold carriers accountable for drug testing done by contractors.

FRA issued the rule two months after two Amtrak employees were killed when their backhoe was struck by Amtrak's Palmetto passenger train near Philadelphia.

The carriers argued that they should not be in the position of policing contractors to ensure compliance. The FRA said that it already holds railroads accountable for ensuring that regulated service contractors comply with a random drug testing program and that maintenance contractors are no different.

“A railroad that chooses to hire a [maintenance] contractor, rather than an employee, to perform roadway worker functions, cannot avoid its responsibility for compliance by doing so," the FRA says. "As with service agents, FRA will hold the railroad responsible for the actions of the MOW contractor.”

An AAR spokesman said that railroads will be able to meet the 2017 deadline, but they still oppose being held responsible for how an outside company conducts drug and alcohol testing of its employees. The associations are now considering their options, which include taking the matter to court.
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