The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration (“FRA”) recently announced a final rule expanding drug and alcohol testing applicable to maintenance-of-way (“MOW”) employees, effective one year from the date of the rule’s publication (which has yet to be announced). MOW employees work directly on and around railway tracks and crossings, maintaining the tracks, bridges, roadways, signals and electric machinery to ensure trains have a clear path to pass through.  The new rule subjects these employees to a broader spectrum of drug and alcohol testing, including random testing, pre-employment testing, post-accident testing, return-to-duty testing, reasonable cause testing and reasonable suspicion testing.  While expansive testing has long been in place for other railroad workers, such as engineers and dispatchers, MOW employees previously were required to be tested only if they died after an accident.  The rule was published pursuant to a congressional directive in the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008.

The FRA also announced a final rule updating safety regulations for MOW employees. These regulations, effective April 1, 2017, include amendments to existing policies regarding roadway maintenance machinery and maintenance worker qualifications, among other things.