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Most people know that if your drive drunk you can get your license suspended. But many aren't aware that suspensions aren't limited to driver's licenses. And a new law in New Jersey mandates that if a train engineer loses their driver's license because of a DUI, they will also be suspended from operating trains.
But two Jersey unions are pushing back on the law, claiming federal statutes governing rail workers already consider DUI offenses and the new law is overly punitive.
The law received little resistance from either party, with U.S. Senator Robert Menendez rhetorically asking the crowd at a May 2106 press conference, "How can a repeat DWI offender, who the state says is too dangerous to be behind the wheel of a car, be allowed to operate a train with hundreds of passengers aboard?"
But the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers filed a federal lawsuit against New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Attorney General Christopher Porrino, and New Jersey Transit Rail Operations. In it, they claim the federal government already addressed the issue of locomotive engineers whose drivers' licenses were suspended or revoked due to a DUI, and the new law is not "necessary to eliminate or reduce an essentially local safety ... hazard."
The federal Rail Safety Act allows federal authorities to decertify any train engineer whose driver's license has been suspended for driving under the influence, but the Act only "requires consideration" of an engineer's motor vehicle driving record before decertification -- it doesn't make suspension mandatory. And additional federal regulations permit decertification if an engineer's license was suspended because he or she to undergo substance abuse testing.
The unions are asking the court to rule that the state law does not apply to any New Jersey Transit Rail Operations and block the state from enforcing it against any union members. You can read the entire lawsuit below:
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