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AMFA Comment to FAA Regarding Foreign Repair Station Drug Testing Requirements
Sep 30, 2014

July 8, 2014

VIA Electronic Mail
Docket Operations, M-30
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE.
Room W12-140
West Building Ground Floor
Washington, DC 20590-0001

RE:  Docket No. FAA-2012-1058; Drug and Alcohol Testing of Certain Maintenance Provider Employees Located Outside the United States (ANPRM)

Dear Sir or Madam:

The Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA) appreciates the opportunity to provide comment on the FAA advance notice of proposed rulemaking. AMFA supports the FAA effort to implement drug and alcohol testing requirements on foreign repair station employees. AMFA further supports a drug and alcohol testing framework that imposes equal standards on both foreign and domestic aircraft maintenance technicians. AMFA is the only craft specific, independent aviation union that represents over 3,000 aircraft maintenance technicians and related support personnel at Alaska Airlines and Southwest Airlines as well as advocates on behalf of our craft.

On behalf of domestic aircraft maintenance technicians, AMFA proposes that fundamental fairness warrants the same or reasonably similar drug and alcohol testing requirements for domestic and foreign maintenance personnel. The safety of the American flying public is best served by a uniform drug and alcohol testing standard. Currently, domestic maintenance personnel employed at domestic certified part 145 repair stations are subject to comprehensive testing procedures.[1] Safety sensitive maintenance performed at foreign stations must be subject to the same standards, including the conduct of those performing the work. Implementing the same strict testing standards on foreign maintenance employees will better ensure public safety and reliability of aircraft maintenance, regardless of repair station location, conflict with applicable laws of the country in which a repair station is located, or costs on the industry.

Based on the DOT/FAA drug and alcohol testing program for safety-sensitive employees applied to domestic mechanics, safety-sensitive maintenance employees at foreign repair stations should be subject to the same policies in reference to when testing is required, substances tested, random testing, chain of custody requirements and consequences for test failure.

I. When Testing Should Be Required

a. Pre-Employment Testing

An employee must have a negative drug test before beginning employment. Employees transferring into a position that performs safety sensitive functions must also have a negative test result prior to transferring.

b. Reasonable Cause/Suspicion Testing 

A drug or alcohol test should be required when an employee’s job performance, behavior or other physical evidence shows that the employee may be under the influence of drugs.[2]  Examples may include slurred speech, unsteady standing or walking, unsafe options or inability to perform routine tasks. The test should be able to occur any time an employee is ready or available to perform or actually performing safety sensitive functions. Foreign repair station employees that perform safety sensitive functions should be prohibited from consuming alcohol 4 hours before being considered “on duty.”

In order to prevent the abuse of reasonable cause testing, foreign employers should establish procedures under which multiple supervisors concur that reasonable cause exists to drug test an employee. Tests should preferably be conducted as soon as possible and on site.

c. Post Accident Testing

As soon as possible after an accident (but not later than 32 hours after for drug tests and 8 hours for alcohol tests), foreign repair employees that perform safety sensitive functions should be tested for drugs and/or alcohol. Employees should be tested if their performance either contributed to the accident or cannot be completely discounted as a contributing factor to the accident. Employees should not consume alcohol for 8 hours after an accident unless tested by the employer and it has been determined the employee did not contribute to the accident.

Failure to submit to a post-accident drug or alcohol test should be considered a test failure and lead to employee termination.

II. Substances Tested

Regardless of local law, any drug-testing program for foreign repair station personnel should include urine testing for five specific classes of drugs or trace metabolites:

  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Opiates
  • Amphetamines
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)

Although the laws of a foreign jurisdiction may not expressly prohibit the use of one of the above substances, employers should test for their use. The fact remains that the continued use of these substances could affect job performance to the degree that a maintenance employee may neglect safety sensitive functions and impair passenger safety.

For alcohol testing, foreign repair stations personnel should be subject to on site evidential breath testing using a DOT approved evidential breath testing unit.

III. Random Testing

A foreign repair station employer should be required to randomly drug test a fixed percentage of employees on an annual basis. Tests may occur more than once a year and be administered at any time an employee is conducting safety sensitive functions, about to perform safety sensitive functions or immediately available to perform safety sensitive functions.

Random drug testing procedures should include written notice for employees selected for testing. After written notice, the selected employee should proceed to testing, preferably at an on site location. For employees recognized by a union, a union representative should be present if feasible and testing should be conducted subject to an existing collective bargaining agreement.

For random alcohol testing, only employees scheduled to work on the day tests are given should be randomly tested (including reserve employees).

IV. Testing Methods

The drug and alcohol test procedures applicable to safety sensitive maintenance personnel should mirror the requirements of the FAA/DOT regulations applicable to domestic employees.[3] Understandably, nations in which foreign repair stations are located may not have the testing infrastructure comparable to laboratories certified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). In the absence of access to HHS-certified laboratories, the FAA should require foreign repair station operators to seek substantially equivalent testing services.

V. Consequences for Violation of Policies

In line with the expectation of equally stringent test procedures for both domestic and foreign aircraft maintenance personnel, foreign repair station employees performing safety sensitive functions should be terminated if the employee:

  • Has a verified positive drug test result
  • Has refused to submit to testing[4]
  • Is found to have tampered with or adulterated a urine sample
  • Has been convicted of any drug related criminal offense[5]
  • Engages in the pre-duty[6]  or on-duty use of alcohol with an alcohol concentration of 0.042 or greater
  • Violates post-accident post use prohibitions

In the event of termination for any of the above actions, an employer should be required to notify the FAA.

VI. Conclusion

Safety-sensitive maintenance employees must be subject to drug test procedures, whether they are employed in a foreign country or in the United States. The safety of the American flying public requires that the FAA extend its authority to mandate drug-testing equivalency between domestic and foreign repair personnel.

The Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association appreciates the opportunity to share comment on this important issue. The Association is dedicated to continuing to engage with the FAA on behalf of member aircraft maintenance technicians and the craft as a whole.

If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me at 720-744-6628 or via email at Louie.Key@amfanatl.org.


Louie Key
National Director

[1] 14 C.F.R. Part 120; See also, 49 C.F.R. Part 40

[2] Reasonable cause may be defined as “a reasonable and articulable belief that an Employee is using a prohibited drug, based on contemporaneous, physical, behavioral or performance indicators.”

[3] 49 C.F.R. Part 40

[4] “Refusal to submit” should be considered; employee fails to proceed to testing site, submit to test, complete the test, remain at the testing site until release, non-medical excuse to provide required quality of breath or disruption in the testing process. 

[5] Although this provision was originally conceived as applying to the criminal justice convictions in the United States, the principle should be transferrable to foreign countries that maintain laws prohibiting the use of drugs subject to testing (see supra Part II).   

[6] Pre-duty use is defined as use of alcohol 4 hours before being considered “on duty.”

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