Legislation updating drug and alcohol testing regulations for the state’s school bus drivers has been passed by both the New York Senate and Assembly and is now on its way to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk. Industry observers indicated that the governor is likely to sign the legislation.
In the state Assembly, the legislation was known as A.208-E and sponsored by Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo. It passed on Monday. The New York School Bus Contractors Association stated that this was a major victory, since it was the first time this legislation had passed through the Assembly, even though the Senate had passed similar legislation before.
The complementary Senate bill, known as S.2587-E and sponsored by Sen. Carl Marcellino, was quickly approved on Tuesday as NYSBCA had hoped.
The legislation allows for drug and alcohol testing of all school bus drivers before being hired and randomly throughout their employment.
It also prohibits individuals from consuming any “drug, controlled substance or an intoxicating liquor, regardless of its alcoholic content” for eight hours before “going on duty or operating, or having physical control of a bus.” The previous time limit was six hours. Employers are to observe employees’ appearance, conduct, or “other substantiating factors” to ensure this rule is followed.
“While many contractors already include all their drivers in the pool that can be randomly tested, this legislation requires all school bus drivers to be subjected to testing, no matter what class license they have or size vehicle they operate. [It] will help make the ride on a yellow school bus in New York even safer,” declared Bree Allen, president of the NYSBCA.
NYSBCA spokesman Andre Claridge added that the new legislation closed a legal loophole that exempted drivers of school buses with fewer than 16 passengers from the random drug and alcohol tests.
The Assembly bill noted that there have been at least four New York school bus drivers arrested for DUI while on the job since October 2012, including one in which a bus with five young students aboard crashed into a house.
“Parents entrust their children’s lives and safety to school bus drivers; they have every right to expect and demand that the bus driver is sober,” it stated. “While the vast majority of school bus drivers take their responsibilities very seriously, we have seen others abuse parents’ trust and endanger children by driving drunk.”
The NYSBCA, Allen stated, “has long-supported efforts to have every school bus driver in New York state included in the pool of drivers who can be subjected to random drug and alcohol testing.” The association said it considered the fact that the legislation passed both houses “a big victory.”
“We commend Assemblywoman Lupardo and Senator Marcellino for their leadership, and the New York State Assembly and Senate for passing the bill,” Allen stated. “We are optimistic that Governor Cuomo will sign this very important legislation into law.”
The bill will head to Gov. Cuomo’s desk later this year, said Claridge.