ALBANY, N.Y. — State lawmakers are again considering bills that would bolster drug and alcohol testing for school bus drivers in New York.
The New York Association for Pupil Transportation (NYAPT) signaled its support of the legislation. While current federal and state laws mandate random drug and alcohol testing for school bus drivers, NYAPT has pointed to technical issues with the test regimen and has called for improvements.
• School districts and contractors would have to immediately report to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles if a school bus driver fails a pre-employment or random drug and alcohol test.
• A driver who fails a test would be disqualified from driving a school bus for one year.
• School districts and contractors would have to conduct pre-employment and random drug and alcohol testing on all drivers, regardless of commercial driver's license (CDL) endorsement. NYAPT noted that this would cover drivers of smaller school transportation vehicles with a Class C CDL, which aren’t included under the federal testing laws.
• All such drivers would have to be included in the random testing pool.
• Drivers would not be allowed to operate a school bus within eight hours of consuming alcohol (an increase from six hours).
The companion bills, both of which were introduced last year but failed to pass, have been revived and referred to the transportation committees in the New York Assembly and Senate.
Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, a sponsor of the legislation, has targeted drug and alcohol testing as far back as 2013. The proposals respond to instances of school bus driver DUIs in New York.
Pupil transportation officials, including NYAPT, have called for measures to close the gaps in testing and make the rules more stringent for school bus drivers.
“This legislation originated with the school bus industry as we looked for ways to police ourselves and to ensure we did not have to explain to the parents and the public why a bus driver had been given the keys to drive a school bus in a compromised condition,” NYAPT Executive Director Peter Mannella said. “That should never happen.”
NYAPT President Lori-Ann Savino, director of transportation for Jericho (N.Y.) School District, said that the bills from Assemblywoman Lupardo and Sen. Carl Marcellino would boost parents’ confidence in pupil transporters.
“School bus drivers do amazing work to keep our children safe each and every day of the school year. We trust them with our children, and day after day, they earn that trust,” Savino said. “This legislation helps us and helps them [assure] all the moms and dads that our children continue to be on the safest ride to school.”
Also on the drug and alcohol testing front, NYAPT is offering its members training in the federally regulated “reasonable suspicion” protocol, which helps in identifying drivers who might be impaired. NYAPT said that the training provides tools for recognizing the signs of drugs or alcohol that could affect the safe performance of a driver.