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Rail unions sue over New Jersey substance abuse law


Two labor unions that represent railroad workers have jointly filed a lawsuit to overturn a New Jersey law that prohibits New Jersey Transit locomotive engineers from operating trains if their personal driver's license is suspended because of alcohol or drug abuse.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers filed the suit on Monday.

Union officials argue that the law, which Gov. Chris Christie signed in August 2016, is pre-empted by the federal Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, as well as by existing Federal Railroad Administration certification requirements for locomotive engineers.

"Current federal law and existing federal rail safety regulations already thoroughly address the treatment of railroad workers who have their personal motor vehicle licenses revoked for operating under the influence of alcohol or other banned substances," said BLET National President Dennis Pierce in a press release. "The New Jersey state law is incompatible with the federal law and is a solution in search of a problem. It does nothing to make the railroad safer."

Federal law allows for safety checks of an engineer's personal driving records and mandates counseling or treatment for engineers who have been diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder. Workers who fail to comply with the law have their certification suspended, union officials said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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