ALBANY, N.Y. — Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law on Friday two bills that aim to strengthen pre-employment and random drug and alcohol testing of school bus drivers.
The new law, based on S.2587E and companion bill A.208E, sponsored by Sen. Carl Marcellino and Assembly Member Donna Lupardo, will require that all school bus drivers, including school bus drivers who drive smaller buses and are exempted under federal law, to be included in the sample pool for random tests. School bus drivers will also not be allowed to assume duty or operate a school bus within eight hours of consuming alcohol, an increase from six hours.
As SBF previously reported, these measures were originally advocated by the New York Association for Pupil Transportation (NYAPT) and other school bus safety organizations, such as the New York School Bus Contractors Association (NYSBCA), following numerous instances of school bus drivers being apprehended for driving under the influence of alcohol, according to the association. NYAPT met with the sponsors to urge the introduction of legislation to close the gaps in testing and to make the rules more stringent for school bus drivers.
The NYAPT praised the bills' passing, stating in a news release that it sees this legislation as helping to assure parents that their children are in safe hands, and to reassure drivers that they are not compromising the safety of the students they transport.
Michael Sweeney, president of NYAPT, said that without Lupardo's and Marcellino’s support and hard work, the bill “would never have been enacted.”
“We are grateful to both of these supportive legislators and to the Governor for his action to sign it into law,” he added.
“This legislation originated with the school bus industry as we looked for ways to manage our internal controls and procedures more rigorously — even those mandated by the federal government,” said Peter Mannella, executive director for NYAPT. “We never want to explain to parents or to the public why a compromised bus driver had been given the keys to drive a school bus. That should never happen. We just helped ensure that it never does.”
The NYSBCA also thanked Cuomo for signing the bill into law, as well as Marcellino and Lupardo for sponsoring the bill.
Bree Allen, president of NYSBCA, said in a news release that although many school bus contractors in the state already require random drug testing for all of their drivers, the law "closes a loophole by requiring all school bus drivers — public or private — be subjected to testing, no matter what class license they have or what size vehicle they operate. As a result, riding a yellow school bus in New York state is now even safer.”
“Our association’s leadership has worked on this legislation for more than five years," Allen added. "The Governor’s signature is a welcome acknowledgement that when school bus companies, school districts, transportation safety advocates, parents, and teachers all get together, our state government will work for that which is in the public’s best interest.”