Grant issuance requires testing

By Joe Bush

If NIU’s Huskie Bus Line receives a $500,000 grant to purchase handicap-accessible commuter vehicles, the drivers of those vehicles will be subject to drug testing.

Linda Hart, legal counsel for the Federal Urban Mass Transit Administration, said because the money sought would be for capital expenditures and not operating expenses, only those driving the special vehicles would be subject to the drug testing regulations. If federal money is used for operating expenses, all system drivers must comply.

The U.S. Department of Transportation drug testing regulations, published Nov. 21, 1988, go into effect Dec. 21, 1989, for areas with a population greater than 200,000. Transit systems in areas with populations of less than 200,000, such as the Huskie Bus Line, must follow the regulations by Dec. 21, 1990.

DeKalb Assistant City Manager Gary Boden said the grant, awaiting Illinois Department of Transportation approval, is in the preliminary consideration stages. “The money is there,” Boden said, adding approval would be based on local program management methods. The grant money would be 80 percent federal with the remainder financed by the city.

Although committed to a drug-free work place, Huskie Bus Line Manager Charlie Battista said “if there are no regulations, we don’t have any plans (for a drug testing program) at this time. That doesn’t mean we wouldn’t in the future.”

Jim Bender, vice president of the American Transit Corporation, the company that owns the Huskie Bus Line, echoed Battista’s drug-free committment, federally required or not.

“If Charlie wanted to implement it (drug testing), we would support him 100 percent. We’re all for a drug-free work place,” Bender said.

The regulations include an education and training program and establishment of a urine drug test program to be given in five situations: pre-employment, reasonable cause, post-accident, random and return to duty.