The FRA Expands Drug and Alcohol Testing to Mechanical Employees

FRA blog

The final rule from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) expands the scope of 49 CFR Part 219 drug and alcohol testing requirement to include mechanical (MECH) employees. As mandated by the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities Act (SUPPORT Act or Act), this rule clarifies who the FRA considers a mechanical employee for regulatory purposes and is effective March 4, 2022.

Who Does It Apply to?

According to the FRA, this final rule defines a MECH employee as,

“any employee who, on behalf of a railroad, performs mechanical tests or inspections required by the following FRA regulations: Railroad Freight Car Safety Standards (49 CFR part 215), Rear End Marking Device—Passenger, Commuter and Freight Trains (49 CFR part 221), Railroad Locomotive Safety Standards (49 CFR part 229), Steam Locomotive Inspection and Maintenance Standards (49 CFR part 230), Brake System Safety Standards for Freight and Other Non-Passenger Trains and Equipment; End-of-Train Devices (49 CFR part 232), and Passenger Equipment Safety Standards (49 CFR part 238).

Additionally, this also includes any such employee who performs mechanical tests or inspections required by the Texas Central Railroad High-Speed Rail Safety Standards (49 CFR part 299). Defining a MECH employee as one who performs these required tests or inspections properly limits part 219 coverage to those mechanical department employees who perform functions that most directly affect safety. An employee who conducts tests or inspections provides the last safety check on railroad rolling equipment before its operation. Final tests or inspections, if not performed or if performed improperly, could lead to single points of failure in the mechanical safety process. An employee who performs a Federally mandated “last look” at the equipment, whether or not it has undergone any repair, maintenance, or servicing work, is responsible for ensuring that the equipment is compliant with Federal regulations and safe for use.”

What Does This Mean for Employers?

The FRA railroad or contractor employer who employs mechanical employees will be:

  1.  Subject to an annual random testing rate of 50% for drug and 25% for alcohol just for the mechanical employees, and
  2.  Required to submit or amend their FRA Drug and Alcohol Plan to at least 60 days after March 4, 2022.

Railroads, contractors, and subcontractors must comply with the same reporting, recordkeeping, and referral requirements for MECH employees, as for covered service and MOW employees.

The complete Federal Regulation Notice may be found at:

     •    The Federal Railroad Administration

     •    The Federal Register

How Can DISA Help?

DISA’s professionals offer expert assistance with all DOT agencies, including FAA, FRA, FTA, FMCSA, PHMSA, and USCG. By keeping you informed and up to date with the latest news and changes, DISA is helping to keep your company in compliance. DISA's FRA compliance services include:

    DOT Drug & Alcohol Testing

    Record Keeping (Fleet Management)

    Random Drug Testing Programs

    Drug Testing Supervisor Training

    Access to Substance Abuse Professional (SAP)

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DISA Global Solutions aims to provide accurate and informative content for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. The reader retains full responsibility for the use of the information contained herein. Always consult with a professional or legal expert.