WASHINGTON — The government will order sweeping drug testing for airline pilots and other employees maintaining aviation safety, Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Hanford Dole announced today.
Dole said she is also ordering the testing of thousands of Transportation Department employees who are employed in safety areas and will seek broader authority to conduct similar testing in the rail industry.
"Nowhere does the private choice to use drugs have more devastating public consequences than on our nation's roads, rails, waters and airways," Dole said.
Random, Periodic Testing
Dole said while the U.S. transportation system is the safest in the world, the public must be assured that it will remain so.
"Through regulation, I will require pre-employment, post-accident and random testing for commercial airline pilots and crew and other employees directly responsible for the safety of flight operations," Dole said. "In addition, I will require periodic testing as part of annual physicals for those who are required by our regulations to have such physicals."
Current Federal Aviation Administration regulations do not provide for random drug testing.
Direct Impact on Safety
The Transportation Department workers involved in the testing program are "in critical safety and security positions whose functions have a direct impact on public health and safety, the protection of life and property or national security, including such positions as railroad, truck, aviation and highway inspectors and air traffic controllers," Dole said.
Government workers found using drugs while on the job would be subject to dismissal, she said.
Dole also noted the department does not now have the legal authority to penalize railroad employees who tamper with safety devices such as warning whistles.