A new law in New Jersey prohibits an engineer whose driving privileges have been suspended or revoked because of a conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or a related offense from operating a N.J. Transit train.
Gov. Chris Christie signed Senate Bill No. 20 into law on Aug. 31.
“Each day, thousands of passengers travel on New Jersey Transit trains with the expectation of arriving safely at their destination,” Christie said in a statement. “While New Jersey Transit trains have a strong safety record, this bill enhances the public’s confidence in New Jersey Transit by ensuring that trains will not be operated by someone who has been proven to have put lives at risk by driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.”
Christie noted the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) expressed concern the bill may conflict with existing federal regulations and could be invalidated due to federal preemption.
“I am skeptical of such a conflict with federal law, which reportedly allows an engineer whose driver’s license had been suspended following two drunk driving convictions to continue to operate trains, whereas this bill obviously would prohibit that,” Christie said. “Nevertheless, in order to remove any uncertainty regarding the validity of the bill, I am directing New Jersey Transit to petition the FRA for confirmation that the bill does not conflict with federal regulations, or alternatively, for a waiver of any federal regulations that may cause the bill to be preempted.
“By eliminating any question about the validity of the prohibition established by this bill, the public may be reassured that New Jersey Transit trains are only operated by engineers who satisfy rigorous safety standards,” Christie added.